Israel’s first university-made nanosatellite launches into space

Space launch (illustrative) (photo credit: NASA)
Space launch (illustrative)
(photo credit: NASA)
Israel’s first nanosatellite to be completely designed, developed, assembled and tested by an Israeli university launched into space on Saturday night, Tel Aviv University shared.
TAU-SAT1 took off right on time at 7:36 p.m. Israel time from the NASA launch facility in Virginia.
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“We have now joined the ‘Civil Space Revolution,’ called New Space, in which, unlike the Old Space, not only giant companies with huge budgets and large teams of engineers can build and launch satellites,” said Prof. Colin Price, head of the Porter Department of Environmental Studies at TAU. “We were able to prove that with the right planning, miniaturization and modulation of many technologies, small satellites can be built and launched into space within two years by students, at a fraction of the budget needed in the Old Space.”
TAU-SAT1 was completed about four months ago. It was then sent to Japan for pre-flight testing at the JAXA space agency. It arrived in Virginia two weeks ago. The nanosatellite, which is only 10 by 10 by 30 cm. and weighs less than 2.5 kg., entered space on a NASA resupply spacecraft destined for the International Space Station.
The nanosatellite is expected to orbit at an altitude of 400 kilometers above sea level at what the university described as a “dizzying speed” of 27,600 kph, or 7.6 km. per second. Every 90 minutes it will complete an orbit around Earth.
TAU-SAT1 (Credit: Tel Aviv University)TAU-SAT1 (Credit: Tel Aviv University)
TAU-SAT1 is meant to conduct several experiments while in orbit, including the measurement of cosmic radiation around the earth.
“Our scientific task is to monitor this radiation, and to measure the flux of these particles and their products,” explained Dr. Meir Ariel, director of TAU’s Center for Nanosatellites. “It should be understood that space is a hostile environment, not only for humans but also for electronic systems. When these particles hit astronauts or electronic equipment in space, they can cause significant damage. The scientific information collected by our satellite will enable the design of protective means for astronauts and space systems.”
To collect the data, the school built a satellite station on the roof of its engineering building. When TAU-SAT1 passes over Israel within a radius of 1,000 km. from the station’s receiving range, the antennas will track the satellite’s orbit and a process of data transmission will occur between the satellite and the station.
According to Dr. Ofer Amrani, head of Tel Aviv University’s Miniature Satellite Lab, these “transmissions” will take place about four times a day for less than 10 minutes at a time.
“Because it has no engine, the nanosatellite’s trajectory will fade over time as a result of atmospheric drag – and eventually it will burn up in the atmosphere and come back to us as stardust,” Amrani said.
Tel Aviv University researchers (Credit: Tel Aviv University)Tel Aviv University researchers (Credit: Tel Aviv University)
He added that “We built the infrastructure for developing TAU-SAT1 on our own – from the clean rooms, through the various testing facilities such as the thermal vacuum chamber, to the receiving and transmission station we placed on the roof.”
TAU said that its researchers are already aiming to design another nanosatellite: TAU-SAT2.
“The idea is that any researcher and any student, from any school at Tel Aviv University, or outside of it, will be able to plan and launch experiments into space in the future – even without being an expert on space,” Amrani further explained.