CubeSats deployed from the ISS

February 25th, 2014, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

 

A new fleet of 28 small satellites, called Flock 1, were deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) on 11 February 2014 by the small satellite orbital deployer (SSOD), in the grasp of the Kibo laboratory robotic arm. The NanoRacks deployer provides commercial access to space from the International Space Station.

The deployment of 28 satellites all at once was the largest deployment of a single constellation of satellites that works together at one time and the largest Earth-observation constellation of satellites ever.

The deployment of 28 satellites all at once was the largest deployment of a single constellation of satellites operating simultaneously and the largest Earth-observation constellation of satellites ever.

The 28 CubeSats were built and are operated by Planet Labs of San Francisco, and  the Flock 1 CubeSats  are individually referred to as Doves. The constellation  will capture imagery of Earth for use in humanitarian, environmental and commercial applications. Data collected by the Flock 1 constellation will be universally accessible to anyone who wishes to use it. The Dove CubeSats use an automated approach where the spacecraft takes pictures over various areas, stores them, and transmits them when positioned over a ground station. Planet Labs then processes the imagery and uploads it online for anyone to access it. The Flock 1 constellation of satellites may also be used together with high-resolution assets like unmanned aerial vehicles and large imaging satellites, in order to follow-up on an identified area and gather more imagery in greater detail.

Imagery from Flock 1 enables identification of areas for disaster relief and improved agricultural yields in developing countries around the globe. Users also can apply this imagery resource to global environmental protection measures, such as monitoring deforestation and changes to polar ice caps.

 The revisit rate, or frequency with which Dove CubeSats pass over a given area, is currently unprecedented among existing satellite systems in orbit. Imagery will be collected at latitudes within 52° of the equator, which encompass expanses north and south of the equator that cover the majority of the world’s populated areas and agricultural regions. The Flock 1 constellation will travel in a lower orbit than most satellites, at a distance between 380 and 650 km above Earth.

Commercial opportunities for CubeSats and other research on and off the space station exist through a public-private partnership enabled by the US Congress in which the station serves as a national laboratory. The national laboratory, managed by the Centre for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), provides funding avenues for programmes like the NanoRacks SmallSat Deployment Programme to open up research and exploration in space for many more users.

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