TUM satellite launched into space
German students have developed a fully functional mini-satellite. A Falcon 9 rocket launched in California carried the satellite into orbit, where it will among other things collect research data.
MOVE-II is a cube-shaped satellite, or CubeSat, whose edges measure ten centimeters. The student group WARR (Scientific Workgroup for Rocketry and Spaceflight) developed and built the satellite within a period of three years with the support of scientists from the Chair for Astronautics. A total of 200 students were involved in the project.
“The most important thing to us is education,” says doctoral candidate Martin Langer, who provided expert support to the team. “The students can participate in a real astronautics project, from the initial idea to the launch into orbit and then the operational mission. On the one hand that means experience which can be used in later projects in industry, on the other it’s of course an excellent motivational element.”
Four wings collect solar energy
The satellite, which weighs 1.2 kg, is equipped with a number of technological innovations: It has four extendable solar wings and can thus on average produce more electricity than other satellites of the same size. These wings are extended using a mechanism based on shape memory alloys. The deformation of such alloys can be reversed by increasing temperature, making it possible to activate the mechanism again and again. This is particularly important during pre-flight testing. In addition MOVE-II has high-performance solar cells that are optimized for the solar spectrum in space and which are being tested in space for the first time.
“There are a number of subsystems inside the satellite which constitute new technological territory for us,” says Langer, “For example the two transceivers, the satellite’s communication systems, where we’re using Software-Defined Radio technologies. The transmitting and receiving parameters can be adjusted with great flexibility using the software, theoretically even while in orbit after the satellite has been launched.” The satellite is also controlled from the earth with a mission control software and the associated interface, all developed by the students. “We’ll test all these systems, evaluate the results and then make further improvements to the systems,” says Langer. MOVE-II will remain in space for a maximum of ten years and then will completely burn up in the atmosphere.
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