The 9th QB50 Workshop – New Launch Details

We have all arrived safely in Liège after several flights, long layovers, and a delayed train. An hour away from Brussels, Liege is the third largest city in Belgium, and the perfect location for the 9th QB50 Workshop. This year’s workshop was held today in HEC ULG, the Management school of the University of Liège. In the morning we focused on the details of the QB50 project.

Quite a few changes have occurred in the last few weeks, including how we will be launching the CubeSats. Originally we intended to deploy all 50 CubeSats from a rocket, but that option is not longer available. Instead we shall be launching out of the International Space Station. This is very complex as the ISS has never launched this many CubeSats and they have very strict regulations. However, this change works out rather well as it provides teams with more access to their satellites and gives us more time to download data. We now intend to launch the CubeSats from the ISS in July 2016 using the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) and the Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer. The Nanoracks Deployer can deploy multiple CubeSats at a time (up to 6U per NRCSD) and can deploy them 1-3 months after they arrive on the International Space Station.

Good news for the QB50 teams! QB50’s test campaign appears to be going well. Both CubeSats have been up for a year. CubeSat P1 is working, and while it has been resetting, it does not appear to be damaged. It is possible that P2 is  damaged, but it is still functioning. Both of the science units (the payloads) appear to be working well. This test campaign is very important as it provides QB50 teams with an example of how their CubeSat will likely behave in space.

Representatives from QB50 also took the time to clearly define the goals of QB50 and specify the details of the project. The project aims to use 40 CubeSats to probe the thermosphere with about 40 sensors. These sensors include the Langmuir Probes that will be on Ex Alta-1. The other 10 CubeSats will have in-orbit demonstrations. In addition to studying the thermosphere and improving modelling of this area, QB50 hopes to miniaturize satellite technology while increasing access to space.

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