The Aalto-1 satellite was presented to the media in March in Otaniemi before delivery to the launch service company in the Netherlands. From the left in the picture: Janne Kuhno, Jaan Praks, Antti Kestilä and Tuomas Tikka. Photo: Aalto University / Mikko Raskinen
The launch of Finland’s first satellite, the Aalto-1, has been delayed again. The investigation into the accident which occurred to the SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher in September continues, which will further delay the continuation of the space flight.
'Our assessment was that the Falcon 9 would have received official permission to launch from the US space flight supervisory authorities in December, just as SpaceX had themselves assessed. In this case, the Aalto-1 would have been next in line for a space flight as early as January. If the Falcon 9 launcher continues its planned space missions in January, the Aalto-1’s launch will be realized during the first quarter,' says Professor and project leader Jaan Praks.
Aalto-1 has been ready to go for a long time. It was delivered in May to Delft in the Netherlands and integrated in a launch deployment system (dispenser) at the clean room facilities of the company Innovative Solutions in Space. The satellite is waiting in the dispenser to be transported to the launch site on the US west coast at the Vandenberg Air Force Base. The dispenser will later be attached at the launch site to a SHERPA system. The SHERPA deployment will be a historic landmark, as over 80 nanosatellites will be launched at about 600 kilometres above the Earth along a route passing the poles. In addition to being supported by Aalto University, the Aalto-1 satellite launch is backed by Space Systems Finland and Nokia, as well as the University of Turku and RUAG.
The Aalto-2 satellite to be launched into space by cargo spacecraft
In addition to the anticipated launch of the Aalto-1 satellite, the start of the Aalto-2 spacecraft’s journey into space is eagerly awaited in Otaniemi. Construction of the Aalto-2 satellite began in 2012, as a doctoral project, when the first students graduated as Masters of Science in Technology after working on the Aalto-1 project.
'Aalto-2’s journey into space will be very different from the Aalto-1 satellite’s voyage. Aalto-2 is waiting in the Netherlands to be sent to the United states for its launch, as is the Aalto-1,' says Praks.
In the United States the Aalto-2 will be loaded aboard the unmanned Cygnus cargo spacecraft along with the other cargo destined for the International Space Station (ISS). Once the 50 satellites participating in the QB50 international mission arrive at the ISS, as expected in March, they will remain there for a few months to wait for a suitable time for release. A launch adapter will be installed by astronauts onto the robotic arm on the space station. This will allow the satellite to be safely detached into the correct orbit.
Aalto-2 will take part in the international QB50 Mission, the aim of which is to produce the first ever comprehensive model of the features of the thermosphere, the layer between the Earth's atmosphere and space. Because the satellite is part of a larger project it will be officially registered as a Belgian satellite, as will the other QB50 satellites.
Finland enters the space age
Since the start of the Aalto-1 project in 2010 and the Aalto-2 project a few years later, hundreds of new professionals in the space sector have been trained. The impact is already visible in the growth of start-up companies in the sector.
'The European Space Agency (ESA) has noticed the development of new technologies and is setting up a Business Incubator Centre (BIC) in Finland to accelerate the rise of innovation in this field," explains Praks.
In the autumn of 2016 a record number of students in space technology started studies at Aalto University.
‘We can already talk to students about the ongoing Aalto space programme, which has plenty of room for creativity and ideas,' says Praks.
Professor Jaan Praks, project leader
Tel. + 358 50 420 5847
More detailed information about the project and material can be found on the satellite’s website (aalto1.fi in Finnish)
News item from 5 October 2016: Preparations under way in Otaniemi for the first satellite launch