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AU is now officially a space university

Thursday 31 January, at exactly 13:00, Aarhus University officially entered the line of universities in the world that have a satellite in space. Delphini-1 was deployed from the International Space Station, ISS, into its orbit. The Delphini-1 team will now try to establish contact with the satellite.

2019.01.31 | Christina Troelsen

On Thursday, the live video from ISS showed Aarhus University's first satellite, Delphini-1, being deployed into space. This means that Aarhus University is now officially a space university. Photo: NASA and NanoRacks

A little dark dot was visible for a few seconds on NASA's live video from the ISS, and then it was gone. It was all there was to see, when Aarhus University's first satellite, Delphini-1, on Thursday 31 January at 13.00 left the ISS via a special "deployer", which ensures that satellites are deployed properly into space. Delphini-1 has now entered into its own orbit around Earth, and hopefully the students will be able to communicate with the satellite and retrieve data from it in the next year or so.

So far everything has progressed according to plan since Delphini-1 was sent from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the SpaceX rocket Falcon-9 on December 5, 2018 to the ISS. (Read: Successful launch of Aarhus University's first satellite). A week ago, Aarhus University was informed that the astronauts on the ISS were ready to send Delphini-1 into orbit around Earth.

A few hours after Delphini-1 was deployed, the Delphini team of students and researchers staff were ready in the control room at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, where they attempted to capture the signal from the satellite via an antenna located at the Department of Engineering at Katrinebjerg. It is only possible when the satellite passes close to Denmark.

Delphini-1 is in orbit around Earth at a height of 400 kilometers, which is not particularly high for a satellite. The relatively low height means that the satellite is mostly below the horizon seen from Denmark. Therefore, the researchers and the students have only approx. 10 minutes four times a day, where they have the opportunity to get in touch with it.

The attempt to contact Delphini-1 on Thursday afternoon and evening failed, which may be because the satellite's batteries have not yet optained enough power to transmit. The batteries are charged via solar panels on each side, and it may take a while before they are sufficiently charged for the instruments to start operating. The team will be ready in the control room again on Friday to make another attempt to connect.

The mini satellite is a pilot project

Delphini-1 is a 'cubesat'; a mini satellite only 10 x 10 x 10 cm in size and weighing just over a kilogram. It is equipped with radio transmitter and receiver, a computer and a camera.

The students are the focal point of the Delphini-1 project. They have designed, built and tested the satellite, and helped to establish the antenna and control room.

This first satellite in the AUSAT programme is a pilot project to obtain knowledge and experience about constructing, operating and communicating with satellites. The experiences will be a great advantage for the students once they have to move on in their careers, and for the departments involved, where the work continues in new teams of students and with new satellite projects under the "AUSAT" programme.

Delphini-1 will be in orbit around Earth for about a year and it will gradually slow down and fall into the Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up. But before then, it will hopefully have contributed a lot of valuable experience and knowledge about how to control and communicate with your very own satellite.


Update Monday 4 February: Despite the team’s efforts during the weekend, they still have not been able to establish contact with Delphini-1. They have been able to receive beacons from other satellites, which clearly indicates that the ground station is operational. In addition, they are monitoring the international radio amateur networks, which are also trying to receive beacons from Delphini-1, however still without success. The team of students and researchers continue their efforts and remain positive that Delphini-1 is well on its journey. There are, after all, several cases where communication with satellites has only been established after weeks or even months. 


Update 6 February: We are happy to inform you that we have just received beacons from Delphini-1 !!!
Our satellite is well and alive and now the real mission will start.



About the AUSAT programme

Delphini-1 is a collaboration between the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Department of Engineering and the Department of Geoscience, and the students taking part in the project also come from these three departments.

The launch of Delphini-1 was donated by the European Space Agency, ESA via the Ministry of Higher Education and Science. In addition to the departments mentioned above and the faculty, other contributors, include the Aarhus University Research Foundation, GomSpace A/S, and the Danish National Research Foundation through the Stellar Astrophysics Centre.

For further information, please contact:

Victoria Antoci - project scientist for Delphini-1
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University
E-mail: antoci@phys.au.dk
Tel: +4587155851


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