Student satellite project ESTCube-2 underway ({{commentsTotal}})

Conceptual image of the ESTCube-2 satellite.
Conceptual image of the ESTCube-2 satellite. Source: (ERR)

The Estonian Student Satellite Foundation has raised three quarters of the €20,000 it is aiming for on crowdfunding platform Hooandja to help launch the next Estonian cube satellite, ESTCube-2, in 2019. The project is set to test a 300-meter solar sail.

The solar sail, typically designed to propel spacecraft, acts as a brake in Earth’s orbit. ESTCube-2’s mission will be to demonstrate technology for a plasma brake, solar sails as an interplanetary propulsion system, and advanced satellite subsystem solutions, according to the ESTCube-2 website.

To test the plasma brake and the solar sail, the satellite will deploy and charge a 300-meter-long tether. By interacting with ionospheric plasma in Earth’s orbit, the plasma brake will be able to lower the satellite’s orbit from an altitude of 700 km to 500 km within half a year. This tether could then become a system to be added to satellites that would take them out of orbit after they reach the end of their service life, in order to keep them from becoming space junk and endangering future space missions.

According to plans, ESTCube-2 is to be completed in 2018 and launched into orbit in early 2019.

The development and construction of the satellite is expected to cost €200,000, and the transportation into Earth's orbit €300,000. The development work will be completed mainly by student volunteers.

ESTCube-2 will be three times the size of ESTCube-1, the first ever Estonian satellite, which the team successfully completed and that was launched into orbit in 2013. While the satellite itself was a success, not everything went as planned with that mission. Specifically, the team failed in their main goal – to test the solar tether. The reason behind the failure was excess vibration of the transport rocket that one component of the satellite didn’t survive.

The project is raising money by means of the Estonian Hooandja crowdfunding platform. The aim is to raise €20,000, of which 76 percent have already been achieved. There are 30 days left.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

Source: BNS, ERR