X-Cubesat, the satellite designed by students from the French École Polytechnique, was placed in orbit from the International Space Station on 17th May at 3.45 am (local). The cubesat is operational, and the very first telemetry was received by an amateur radio station in the Netherlands and sent to the École Polytechnique.
As for the École des Mines’s cubesat, called Spacecube, it was placed in orbit on the 18th May at 10.25 am (local). No telemetry has been received so far, as the first flyover of the ground station (located on the École Polytechnique campus in Paris) is scheduled to take place during the night from 18th to 19th May.
The two cubesats are only a few centimetres and were developed within CNES’s student programme Janus.
The cubesats were carried to the ISS using a Cygnus cargo spacecraft and deployed using the Japanese Kibo module and the station’s robotic arm equipped with the Small Satellite Orbital Deployer tool (SSOD). This system was specifically designed to extract satellites from the Kibo module’s airlock and launch them into space.
These cubesats are just as well designed as their larger counterparts, from development to launch and beyond; whether it be receiving commands, sending telemetry, or processing data, they can do it all and more. But most importantly, this type of project helps promote scientific learning with a strong experimental aspect in various space-related fields such as mechanics, energetics, avionics, attitude control, power supply, etc. These projects are also a chance to test new promising satellite or instrument technology in orbit, a great opportunity for the scientific and the industrial communities.
Launch of nanosatellite STARS-C from the ISS, Dec 19. 2016. © NASA 2016