ESTCube-1, a cube satellite built by Estonian students, on Monday started its journey to the European spaceport near Kourou in French Guyana, from where it will be flown into orbit on board the Vega rocket in April.
The first ever satellite of Estonia tests the electric solar wind sail invented by Finnish scientist Pekka Janhunen, which may become an important milestone in the development of future technologies and Estonia’s aspiration to become a space nation, Mart Noorma, teacher at the University of Tartu and senior research fellow at Tartu Observatory, told BNS.
Noorma said the popularisation of science and an educational mission was one of the main goals of the project, which already now could be counted as a success. “I’m sure that all the one hundred or so students who took part in the programme over the five years believe that it’s possible to do big things here in Estonia,” he said.
Noorma described the student satellite as extraordinary in terms of its scientific mission, as in collaboration with Finnish and German partners a novel electric solar wind sail, invented by Pekka Janhunen, researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, will be tested. The electric sail is a new space propulsion concept which uses the solar wind momentum for producing thrust, and is seen as enabling in the future both interplanetary flights as well as removal of space litter.
ESTCube-1 is a cubesat measuring 10 x 10 x 10 cm and weighing 1.33 kilograms. The satellite’s operations center will be located at Tartu Observatory.
The possibility to participate in building a real space craft brought into the project several students from Latvia, Germany, Ukraine, Lithuania, and the United States. Altogether three doctoral theses and more than 40 graduation theses are to be defended as a result of the project that got its start in 2008. a
Students from the University of Tartu, the Estonian Aviation Academy, Tallinn University of Technology, and the University of Life Sciences took part in the project that is led by researchers from Tartu Observatory and the University of Tartu. The development of different components of the satellite took place in international collaboration and articles related to the work have been published in numerous scientific publications.
Source: Estonian Review
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