The human desire to explore the deep, dark unknown secrets of the Universe dates back from the medieval time. However, with the advent of technology, the desire of humans to explore space and the universe has taken a quantum leap in the last 10 - 15 years.
As the result, humans have been able to achieve some of the most challenging and daunting tasks in space exploration. From landing a spacecraft on a comet to sending miniature spacecraft known as “Nano Satellites” towards an interplanetary journey to Mars, humans today have achieved it all.
On 26 November 2018, US Space Agency NASA, landed its newest space mission, InSight on Mars. During the journey of InSight Spacecraft to Mars, two piggyback miniature spacecrafts called MarCO- A and MarCO-B, which are nothing but miniature Nano-Satellites, were sent.
MarCO-A and MarCO-B are the first Nano Satellites to go on an interplanetary Mission since the inception of Nano-Satellite technology back in 1999. The credit for Nano Satellite technology evolution goes to two American Professors, Jordi Puig-Suari of California Polytechnic State University and Bob Twiggs of Stanford University.
Since the two science heads gave Nano Satellite technology to the world, more than 200 Nano Satellites of a different platform (1, 2,3 and 6 Units) have been successfully launched into space in Low Earth Orbit. And many more are yet to be launched.
What is Nano Satellite?
Nano-Satellites (also known as CubeSats) are small miniature Spacecrafts with the minimum standards reference weight for a 1-Unit.
Nano-Satellite weight is around 1.2 Kg and nanosatellite dimension is 10 cm*10 cm*10 cm (10 cm Cube). The dimensions and weight of nanosatellite can vary according to 1, 2, 3 or 6 Units platform.
What is the benefit of small satellites?
The small miniature spacecrafts (or small satellites) are not only a great tool to educate students about Space Engineering, and the technology behind designing, developing and launching a space mission, but also a great tool to test new technologies in the space.
What is the cost involved with Nano Satellites?
These require a small investment, hence promote more and more research and development. The average Nano Satellite construction cost and launching cost, for a 1 Kilogram or 1-Unit CubeSat can vary between 4-5 Crore Indian Rupees (500000 US Dollars).
The development of CubeSat technology has also pioneered the way for development and raised competition among Launch Vehicle developers. Indian Space agency, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) in February 2017, achieved a zenith in space exploration by launching the maximum number of satellites on single Rocket (PSLV C-37).
103 of the 104 Satellites launched by this PSLV-C37 Mission were Nano Satellites. This not only brought a great monetary profit to ISRO, but also turned out to be a great achievement for Indian Space program.
What is the Second Estonian Satellite TTU 100?
The objective to build the second Estonian Satellite dates back to 2014. In 2014, a Nano-Satellite project was coined up named TTU 100. TTU stands for Tallinna Tehnikaülikool or Tallinn University of Technology and 100 stands for 100 years of the foundation of the University (1918-2018).
This University is located in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. Estonia is one the most digital cum techno-savvy country located in Eastern Europe, with a rich history and culture.
The successful development and launch of the second Estonian Satellite will be live next year in May 2019. The launch from Vega Rocket of Arianespace from French Guyana in South America will put another tag to digital Estonia, which is termed as the Information technology Capital of Europe.
TTU 100 is a 1- Unit CubeSat with a launch mass of about 1 Kilogram. The total cost of construction and launch for TTU 100 is around 5 Crore Indian Rupees (500000 US Dollars) and the project is fully funded by the Estonian Government.
The Satellite project is led by Rauno Gordon and is looked after by an 80+ member team from Tallinn University of Technology. It also has external support from several other laboratories and industrial partners in Estonia.
Various other countries are also aiding the project to design, develop and get the Satellite ready for launch next year. I also had the privilege to work and contribute to the prospective journey of this spacecraft as a Mechanical Engineer during July-September 2018.
The primary objective of this CubeSat is to take images of the Estonian water reserve to understand the change in the water level with varying years with the help of two Cameras as a Scientific Payload (RGB and Infrared Camera).
The CubeSat, for the first time, will have a 10.4 GHz Antenna mounted on the CubeSat to enhance the communication performance of the Satellite with a ground station on Earth.
Currently, the Engineering Model of the Satellite is being tested and validated. The Flight Model is proposed to be developed around January- February 2019, so that it is ready before the launch schedule in May 2019.
The successful development and launch of this Satellite (TTU 100) will put the second Estonian Satellite into Space. It will lead to further Nano Satellite projects at Tallinn Technical University, (now called as Tallinn Tech University) with a prospective implementation of 3-D Printing technology for further Nano Satellite projects.
Thus, Nano Satellite research and development is taking a great jump globally. Many countries, including India and many organizations, are looking forward to utilize Nano Satellite technology to provide cheap and cost-effective space-based solutions to Nano Satellite technology to provide cheap and cost-effective space-based solutions to the society globally.
This wholeheartedly supports the motto of Space exploration in the 21st Century. The day is not far when we could travel to space and come back, spending a vacation.