The ground team of the PilsenCUBE project at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen together with partners involved in the unique project of the VZLUSAT-2 nanosatellite are celebrating a major success – the one-year anniversary of the launch of this ninth Czech satellite.
On 13 January 2022, the FALCON 9 rocket of Elon Musk’s Space X carried the VZLUSAT-2 satellite into the orbit. “On 26 January at 15:02 UTC, it was released from the ION Satellite Carrier west of South America. Already at 15:28 UTC, the VZLUSAT-2 radio beacon broadcasting on the frequency 437.325 MHz was detected by an Australian station. We established the first radio contact ourselves at 19:58 Central European Time once the satellite appeared in range of our ground station, specifically above the Black Sea. The transferred data confirmed that all systems were functional,” said Jiří Masopust from the PilsenCUBE team.
In the one year since launch, VZLUSAT-2 orbited the Earth more than 5,700 times, covered more than 250 million kilometres and established contact with the Pilsen ground station more than 2,270 times, transmitting a large amount of telemetric and scientific data.
“VZLUSAT-2 is a CubeSAT-class satellite measuring 10×10×34 cm with a weight of 4 kg and expected lifetime of two years. It is located on a sun-synchronous polar orbit 535 kilometres above the Earth. It carries many unique scientific instruments and for the entire year has been submitting very interesting and unique data to the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen by radio. The satellite has a fully functional orientation and stabilisation system, which makes it the first and only Czech satellite with the ability to take high-resolution images of the Earth,” continued Jiří Masopust.
The satellite is currently in the middle of a measurement campaign in which it together with its older brother VZLUSAT-1 takes radiation measurements with similarly configured detectors.
Data from VZLUSAT-2 are now received by more than 50 ground stations of the SatNOGS network around the planet, giving the Pilsen ground station more time to focus on sending commands, uploading measurement plans to the satellite and carrying out further scientific experiments.
VZLUSAT-2 regularly contributes to the global network of gamma-ray burst detectors thanks to its fully automated detectors and a system for sending and deleting data from the satellite. The NASA website publishes reports of these detections.
The VZLUSAT-2 nanosatellite was developed as a joint project of Výzkumný a zkušební letecký ústav, a.s., Spacemanic, esc Aerospace, TTS, s.r.o., Rigaku Innovative Technologies Europe s.r.o., ADVACAM s.r.o., Eltvor, Needronix, Konkoly Observatory and the Czech Technical University in Prague, University of West Bohemia in Pilsen and Masaryk University in Brno. The project was supported by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic and the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
The project builds on the successes of a previous Czech technology satellite, the VZLUSAT-1, which launched on 23 June 2017 and in which the PilsenCUBE team from UWB was also involved. “Our ground station at UWB is the only one that can send this satellite commands and communicate with it. VZLUSAT-1 was launched five and a half years ago. It has orbited the Earth almost 31,000 times, travelled more than 1.3 billion kilometres and established contact with our PilsenCUBE ground station at the UWB more than 12,000 times. So far, it has provided us with unique scientific and technological data mainly from radiation detectors, the X-ray telescope and measurements of composite building materials. The fact that the satellite still continues to operate and submit data from experiments to Earth after five years is an extraordinary success and proof of the high quality of work of all the teams involved in its manufacturing and operation,” added Ivo Veřtát, another member of the PilsenCUBE team.
In conclusion, we wish both VZLUSAT-1 and VZLUSAT-2 many more successful orbits of Earth and a long life. And to the scientific community a wealth of interesting and useful data from these satellites.