Monday evening, 25 April, after three postponements, the European Space Agency ESA finally launched the Soyuz rocket from French Guiana that carried Aalborg University's newest satellite in space. Early Tuesday morning the engineering students were in two-way contact with AAUSAT4. Its beacons were also received by radio amateurs in the United States, Austria and Denmark.
"It's a huge relief after we had a problem communicating with the predecessor AAUSAT5", says engineering student Mikael Juhl Kristensen from the AAUSAT4 team.
A long and exciting night in the university's satellite laboratory was followed by a busy morning, where the team was ready to receive signals from AAUSAT4 when it passed close enough over Aalborg to allow radio contact. The direct communication was supported by positive observations from ground stations and radio amateurs around the world.
The first data came from the earth station in Thule (Greenland) around 04:15 in the morning. Later the students had full two-way contact with the satellite as it flew over Aalborg shortly after six o'clock. The pass was used to collect a lot of useful statistics on AAUSAT4's condition.
"The station in Thule has not been in use for one and a half years, so we were not sure how well it would perform. But it gave us the first definite indication that everything is alright. The main points being that there is power and that the satellite is charging. As the mood in the room indicates we’re now very relaxed and happy", says Associate Professor Jesper Abildgaard Larsen, who is a veteran from the former AAUSAT missions.
According to his colleague, Associate Professor Jens Dalsgaard Nielsen from AAU Student Space, AAUSAT4 passed the first health check:
"Both the battery voltage of 8 volts and the temperature of 20 degrees testify that the satellite is in excellent shape. Now we need to optimize the reception of AIS data transmitted by ships in the waters around Greenland, which is AAUSAT4's practical mission".
This will be achieved by calibrating the satellite and adjusting various parameters of its software with commands from the ground.
The main star in the successful rocket launch from Kourou in South America was ESA's environmental monitoring satellite Sentinel-1B. ESA Education seized the opportunity to let engineering students from universities in Aalborg (Denmark), Liege (Belgium) and Turin (Italy) send their small CubeSats into space as part of ESA's' !Fly Your Satellite!" program.
The payload of AAUSAT4 is to improve the monitoring of sea traffic around Greenland, which began with its predecessor AAUSAT3 and was followed up with AAUSAT5 in collaboration with Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen. The Belgian CubeSat Oufti-1 will test digital radio communications to space, and Italian e-st@ar-II experiments with a control system that utilizes the earth's magnetic field.
The AAUSAT4 website at www.space.aau.dk/aausat4 is constantly updated with information about data collected at the various passes.
ESA news update: Student satellites fly freely on their orbit in space.
Source: AAU News