Technion satellite project 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Technion)
Researchers at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology – for years experts
in the miniaturization of satellites – plan to build and dispatch into space a
fixed formation of three nano-satellites weighing up to six kilograms each, the
first time scientists will attempt this feat.
The project, headed by
Prof. Pini Gurfil of the aeronautics and space engineering faculty, is
due to be unveiled officially next Monday at the Science and Technology
Ministry’s International Ilan Ramon Memorial Space Conference at the Fisher
Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in
Herzliya. Representatives of space agencies and space researchers from
around the world are due to attend.
“This is the first time in the world
that scientists will attempt sending three satellites together in a controlled
formation,” Gurfil said. “Until now, this has not been possible because of their
size and weight and the problems of dispatching multiple satellites in a uniform
formation and their remaining in space for a long time.”
communications satellite construction will be launched in 2015. The Technion in
Haifa has had much success in building satellites that are smaller than a
refrigerator and thus more efficient and cheaper than devices built in the US
The nano-satellites will try to receive signals at various
frequencies from Earth and calculate the location of the transmission facility.
Receiving signals in space from Earth with the help of a number of
nano-satellites flying in a fixed arrangement is a new concept that has never
been performed anywhere. If the experiment succeeds, said Gurfil, such
satellites could be applied to locating missing persons or individuals in
The project is aimed at proving that it is possible to hold
tiny satellites in formation for a year as they pass 600 kilometers above the
Earth. Each of the satellites will be built with a movement system that will
help keep it together for a long period in space.
They will be built
according to the standard CubeSat model whose parts will be put together by
students of the Technion faculty. Each satellite will be constructed out of six
cubes, each of them 10 centimeters cubed. Thus the whole structure will be 10 x
20 x 30 cm. in size. Measuring equipment, antennas, computer and control systems
and navigating equipment will be attached. The programs and algorithms
that manage the fight were developed in a Technion lab for space research. The
nano-satellites will be sent off as an additional shipment on a rocket to be
sent via Europe, Russia or India, the Haifa institute said.
received a 1.5 million euro grant from the European Union a few months ago to
carry out the project. He and his team of interdisciplinary researchers have
already built a working model to overcome the problems resulting from the need
to prevent the nano-satellites from getting too close or too far from each other.
The parts must be able to communicate and function even when something goes
wrong and to fix their relative position with a minimum of fuel so they can
remain longer in space.
“If we succeed in proving that such a flying
formation is possible, it will boost the development of very small satellites
and technologies connected to miniaturization of electronic components,
efficient processing and movement in space,” said Gurfil. “It would advance a
variety of other civilian applications as well.”
Another target is to
provide practical training for space engineers, and students for bachelor’s and
advanced degrees will participate in examining areas connected to the project.
Training and practical experience are vital for developing Israel’s future in
the field, Gurfil said.
In July 1998, Technion aeronautical and space
engineers and students dispatched the Gurwin-TechSAT-2 satellite, one of the
smallest of its type in the world. It succeeded in staying in space and carrying
out all its missions for 21 years. Built as a cube, with each side 54 cm.
long, it weighed only 84 kg., significantly reducing its power consumption.