Chile launches three new satellites into space – Awdhesh

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SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA). In about 21 days, SUCHAI-2, SUCHAI-3 and PLANTSAT will be operational and in Earth orbit.

Santiago de Chile.- SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket took off with the three new U. de Chile satellites on board. The successful takeoff was carried out from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida (USA).

“This is a milestone for us. They are three satellites built simultaneously and that will be operated at the same time as a small constellation. There are few institutions that have launched more than one satellite in a single launch and we are in that group, learning new knowledge and acquiring new skills,” said the researcher in charge of the University of Chile Space Program, Marcos Díaz, coordinator of the Exploration Laboratory Space and Planetary Sciences (SPEL) of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (FCFM) of the University of Chile.

“Chile has the preparation to develop,” assured the dean of the FCFM, Francisco Martínez, after the successful launch. “This is the result of the formation of new generations that are capable of developing far-reaching technological advances. The technology we are developing is very sophisticated, it requires many years and expertise. It is a great message for the country, for us to develop our technology. It is the only way to become a developed country,” he added.

“The University of Chile puts the country in the world orbit in satellite matters”, highlighted the rector Ennio Vivaldi. “Our entire community has vibrated with this event that marks a milestone,” added the university authority and highlighted the historical duty that the university has to guide the country along the paths of development and position it at the forefront of science.

“Not everyone in this country is convinced that it makes sense to invest and develop science. There are those who think that it is better to buy science elsewhere. Let others develop it and we are going to buy it with what we earn selling our raw materials. That is a blunder and today’s milestone proves it,” he added.

The Minister of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation, Flavio Salazar, highlighted the project as an important and rewarding example. “We have raised from the universities and communities, for a long time, the need to take into account the capacities that Chile has, but beyond the speeches, the best way to demonstrate it is in practice and here it is being demonstrated”, pointed out and announced that the satellite and aerospace area will be one of the issues that the current government will promote, not to be part of the international space race, “but related to the very needs of having observation and data collection to be able to plan policies and have a better development.

A project with a State vision

This jump responds to a policy of the FCFM in space development, added Marcos Díaz. “A policy that has transcended the authorities and their own resources. The first satellite, SUCHAI-1, was completely financed by the FCFM and these new satellites are 85% financed with external funds. This evolution responds to a policy of our Faculty and its State vision. It has left us with great learning and capabilities and is putting us at the forefront of the development and operation of satellites in an agile way, if everything turns out as we expect.”

The funds provided by the United States Air Force Office for Scientific Research (AFOSR), the Chilean National Research and Development Agency (ANID), the companies Gomspace, MCI and CRP, and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), have been key to the development of this project.

The next step: wake up the satellites

The three satellites will be put into orbit at a height of about 550 km. Its launch was managed through the intermediary Italian company D-Orbit, who in about a month will position the satellites in the orbit required for the Space Program missions. Once in position, the ground station will start its communication work with the three vehicles, confirming that they are operational, to start activating the different research projects in space science, biological sciences, and technological and communication developments that carry the satellites.

“It is different from the first launch (SUCHAI-1, in 2017), because the rocket leaves the device that carries our satellites inside it in space and will only position itself in the orbital plane that we need after about 21 days, when when they will be released. In that minute we are just going to go out and look for them and start operating them from the facilities in the Department of Electrical Engineering of the FCFM”, explained the principal investigator.

A new milestone will occur approximately six months after the start of the operation, when the deployment of two femtosatellites will take place, which will increase the constellation to five intercommunicating satellites, with a common formation and working as a system (swarm). With these five measurement points it is intended to study a solar storm.

This new phase of the Space Program of the University of Chile considers operating the three satellites from the ground station for at least one year. “We hope to reach the operation time of almost two years that SUCHAI-1 had and perhaps exceed it, but it will also depend on the operations resources,” said Marcos Díaz.

A future with potential for Chile

The team behind these missions is led by the Space and Planetary Exploration Laboratory (SPEL) of the FCFM, together with students, researchers and academics from other national institutions, such as the universities of Santiago, Valparaíso, Antofagasta, PUC de Valparaíso , Bioscience, CINNDA and SIRIO. As well as international collaborators from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, TU Delft, the University of Tokyo and Rubin Observatory (AURA).

“I am very proud to have been a part of this project and to have worked with an incredible human team: postgraduate students, undergraduate students, as well as communities of researchers, scientists, professionals and administrators from the FCFM itself, as well as teams from other universities that They also collaborated by making their laboratories and time available. All this work was carried out in a scenario of a pandemic, of confinement, and the understanding of the authorities allowed us to continue working and developing the program with all the sanitary precautions of the case”, Díaz highlighted.

“This program leaves us with a light of hope of what is to come in the future. We have prepared new people, new talents. We have new knowledge, new experiences and we have a vision of what we can continue to learn and develop in the country”, she stressed.

GENERAL INFORMATION

SUCHAI-2

The 10x10x30 cm nanosatellite weighs approximately 3.5 kilos and its main objective is the study of space physics.

It has sensors for the study of the space environment, the ionosphere and the magnetosphere: two magnetometers -instruments to measure the intensity of the magnetic field-, in addition to a Langmuir probe, whose main objective is to study the ionosphere.

It is equipped with a two-frequency GPS that allows the electron content to be measured and a camera designed to assess light pollution at night, concentrating on white light, which has not been assessed from space.

SUCHAI-3

Almost a twin of SUCHAI-2, it differs from the first because it carries two other femtosatellites, small satellites – the size of a cell phone – that will be deployed once in space and that also carry magnetometers, which will increase the measurement to 5 points of the Earth’s magnetic field. Each femtosatellite carries arrays of patch antennas (patch, flat antennas), which will allow them to be located, using their communication with the larger satellites, SUCHAI-2 and SUCHAI-3.

SUCHAI-3 carries an IOT (internet of things) system, the performance of which will be evaluated in space. Its lateral antennas will help to evaluate with radio systems the location of the femtosatellites and where the radiation comes from in order to locate them in space.

PLANTSAT

It is a nanosatellite whose objective is to carry out biological experiments in space.

Inside it will travel a tillandsia or carnation of the air, a plant that does not need land to survive, but that works as an analog to plants that can be relevant in space, both as food and to produce oxygen. Its container, specially manufactured to keep the plant alive and measure its condition, will allow it to determine if it tolerates the space environment, microgravity and radiation. With the same objective, four smaller containers will be sent with extremophilic microorganisms that live in extreme areas of Chile and that can have applications in space, such as water purifiers, for example, waste degradation and leaching, for potential mining. space.

In addition to the containers with biological samples, the satellite carries two magnetometers to measure the Earth’s magnetic field and a graphene transistor, a material that is being taken into space for the first time to evaluate its performance in this hostile environment, which will make it possible to discover potential uses in space applications

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