Citizen Spaceflight Astronaut – Christa McAuliffe

Christa McAuliffeThe first civilian to join a Shuttle flight was Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher from Concord, New Hampshire, who carried the title of Mission Specialist for the flight. However, the mission, STS-51-L, ended in disaster when the Shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28th, 1986 shortly after lift-off, killing all aboard.

As a direct consequence of the disaster, NASA cancelled the Space Flight Participant program in 1990, and replaced it with a similar initiative, the Educator Astronaut Project, which required all participants to undergo rigorous training as dedicated Mission Specialists.

The first civilian to benefit under the revised program was Barbara Morgan, McAuliffe’s substitute for the Challenger mission, and who flew on the shuttle Endeavour, on August 8th, 2007.…

How to Build a Nano-Satellite

Do you want to build a cubesat or cubesat small satellitenano-satellite, and you need practical, useful advice on how to go about it, but cannot find any despite having done extensive research?

The sad truth is that among the millions of words that have been written about nano-, and pico-satellites, there are precious few that deal with practical issues such as the availability of components, construction methods, standards, and systems integration/integrity, which is where this article comes into the picture.

Aero-space engineers might not have much of a problem building a cubesat from scratch using components that are available off the shelf from more than forty suppliers, but for the novice satellite builder, things are not so easy. Fortunately though, there are cubesat kits available at reasonable prices, which include almost everything required to build a functional satellite and in most cases, all that is needed beyond the basic kit is a power supply and an antenna, which are also available from dozens of suppliers.

In practical terms, this means that if you have a round $10 000 ready at hand, you can build a small satellite with which to monitor weather conditions or changes in the Earth’s magnetic field, track ships at sea, or even to monitor the rate at which glaciers are retreating. The possible uses for cubesats are almost endless, and if you satisfy the requirements set by NASA, you might even be able to get a free launch opportunity for your satellite.

So to bridge the gap between general descriptions of cubesats, which incidentally, is a standard, and not a specification, and practical advice on design and construction issues, we have compiled a list of ten frequently asked questions (and their answers) to help you get your satellite mission off the workbench, and into Low Earth Orbit.

Why should I buy a cubesat kit?

Kits are designed to assist you in the successful completion of your mission in the shortest possible time, and at the lowest possible cost. When you purchase a kit, you typically receive the following items:

  • Development board on which you can develop prototypes of mission-specific hard-, and software. This allows you to develop ideas, carry out performance measurements, set operational parameters, and test general functionalities of the entire package before you assemble the final product.
  • Software Libraries to make it easier to develop mission-specific software using the Salvo RTOS.
  • One fully assembled chassis on

Ten More Types of CubeSat Space Research Projects

Tcubesat technologyo update our list or recent small satellite and CubeSat space research experiments, we have compiled another list of notable citizen space missions using small payloads deployed or house in the ISS, in low earth orbit.

1.) Space Technology

Launch date: November 20th , 2010.

Organization: NASA Ames Research Center.

Research objective: Development of space propulsion systems.


The object of the mission is to deploy a 10 m2 “solar sail”, to test the viability of this technology for possible future use on larger, more massive satellites and probes. Due to the mass of the sail (6 pounds), the satellite was not equipped with data-relaying equipment, and its progress was monitored from ground stations throughout its successful, 240-day mission.

2.) Space Science

Launch date: November 20th , 2010.

Organization: University of Michigan.

Research objective: Upper atmospheric studies/investigations.


The object of the mission is to investigate the origin, and mechanisms involved in FAI ((magnetic) Field-aligned Irregularities), that are known to disrupt radio communication between orbiting space craft and earth-based control stations. Part of the investigation will focus on the reception by the satellite of scattered radar signals, in attempts to develop shielding mechanisms.

3.) Space Technology

Launch date: December 8th , 2010.

Organization: Northrop-Grumman.

Research objectives: System design testing and verification.


The mission serves as a training exercise for company scientists and engineers, with the aim of developing proprietary rapid response satellite construction, integration, configuration, and systems integrity capabilities. Read more at

4.) Space Science/Atmospheric studies.

Launch date: October 10th, 2011.

Organization: SRM University (India)

Research objectives: Measurements of electrons in the ionosphere.


The object of this mission is to measure the rotation of linear polarization angles of electro-magnetic waves using the Faraday Rotation Effect, to test different methods of encapsulating solar cells to protect them from degradation due to the effects of the space environment. Collected data is transmitted in real time to a ground station for analysis by the physics department of the University.


cubesat-module-frame5.) Space Science/Optics.

Launch date: September 13th, 2012.

Organization: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Research objectives: Improve positional estimation of space objects.


The primary objective is the monitoring of space objects that pose threats to valuable space assets, with the aim of improving orbital estimations by using conjunction analyses that are based on data contained in the Air Force Space Command …

Ten Types of Current CubeSat Space Research

cubesat space hardware
Although the development of nano-satelites has vastly reduced the costs of conducting basic, and in some cases more advanced scientific research in Low Earth Orbit in recent years, the $50 000 or more involved in constructing a cubesat is still prohibitively high.

To date, no private initiatives have led to the launch of a cubesat mission, even though the actual launch can be had for free under certain conditions.

However, the relatively low cost of conducting cubesat-based research has opened up many opportunities for schools, universities, and other organizations to send their own cubesats that are four inches square, and only weigh a few pounds, into space to conduct high-level research into subjects as diverse as metal corrosion, yeast cell growth, the detection of forest fires and many more.

To illustrate the versatility and adaptability of cubesat technology, we have compiled a list of ten random examples of cubesat missions that are either ongoing, or had been concluded successfully.

1.) Earth Observation – Flock 1b

Launch date: September 7, 2014.

Organization: Planet Labs.

Research objective: Earth Imaging.


In conjunction with a previous mission known as Flock-1, Flock 1b enables a more continuous imaging of the entire globe to aid in humanitarian efforts. Primary areas of interest include monitoring deforestation, melting rates of the ice caps, and investigation of soil conditions to improve crop yields in developing nations.

Planet Labs provides global access to information gathered to all interested researchers to ensure optimal utilization of relevant data sets.

2.) Plant Seed Growth.

Launch date: September 30, 2012.

Organization: Valley Christian Schools.

Research objective: Investigation of plant seed growth in microgravity.


Although the primary objective of this mission is to provide a teaching platform to students, a secondary objective is the investigation of the effects of microgravity on plant growth. This module employs a self-contained seed-growth capsule in which the various stages of seed germination is monitored by an internal camera in the pressurised environment of the International Space Station.

3.) Symbiotic Nodulation.

Launch date: September 2, 2014.

Organization: Limerick Institute of Technology.

Research objectives: Formation of symbiotic nodes in reduced gravity.


The primary objective of the mission is to investigate the effects of microgravity on the manner in which symbiotic bacterial colonies on the roots of plants supply some plants with nitrogen. Reduced gravity is known to effect living organisms on the cellular level, and new insights into …