NASA’s ST5 (Space Technology 5) – a batch of micro-satellites – is on schedule for a February launch date from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The three ST5 satellites – not much larger than a portable television set – will be launched using a Pegasus XL to a near-Earth polar elliptical orbit that will take them to between from 300 kilometres to 4,500 kilometres above the Earth.
The ST5 Project is an instrumental part of the New Millennium Program. The New Millennium Program was created by NASA to develop and test critical and revolutionary technologies needed to enable future endeavours in space.
Each flight acts as a ‘test track’ for its suite of technologies, mission objectives, operations concepts, and scientific goals. New Millennium is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
‘The team is very excited and we are still working hard as we approach our launch date,’ said Art Azarbarzin, ST5 Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).
The benefit of proving the micro-satellite technology works could open up the market for a new range of similar spacecraft, launched on much smaller – and thus cheaper – rockets. Each of the ST5 satellites has all the features of is full-sized cousin.
Once in orbit, the ST5 micro-satellites will be placed in a row about 40-140 km (about 25-90 miles) apart from each other to perform coordinated multi-point measurements of the Earth’s magnetic field using a highly sensitive miniaturized magnetometer built by University of California, Los Angeles.
This type of measurement is useful for future Sun-Earth Connection missions that will study the effect of solar activity on the Earth’s magnetosphere, a protective magnetic ‘bubble’ that surrounds the planet and helps protect it from harmful space radiation.
The Cold Gas Micro-Thruster (CGMT), built by Marotta Scientific Controls of Montville, New Jersey, will provide propulsion for orbit maintenance.
The X-Band Transponder Communication System, built by Aero Astro, will support two-way communications between the ST5 micro-satellites and the ground stations.
Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Lab, along with Sensortex, Kennett Square, Pa and SANDIA National Labs, built the Variable Emittance Coatings for Thermal Control, which will test the ability to configure the thermal characteristics of a radiator surface on the micro sat.
The University of Idaho, Center for Advanced Microelectronics and Bimolecular Research, provided the Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) Ultra-Low Power Radiation Tolerant (CULPRiT) Logic, which provides a low-power (operating at 0.5 V) digital-logic test circuit that will help reduce power requirements for future satellites.
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