LituanicaSAT-1 Sattelite Mission

Satellite Missions

LituanicaSAT-1 – the first Lithuanian 1U CubeSat satellite which was launched from the Wallops flight facility by Antares rocket, with the International Space Station (ISS) resupply cargo ship Cygnus 2 in January, 2014. It was one of the firsts European satellites launched from the ISS in cooperation with NASA Ames centre and the space logistics company NANORACKS.

The mission started as a non-profit private initiative of the founders of NanoAvionics and Vilnius University. It later evolved into a successful national scale project involving more than 40 committed people and more than 30 partner organisations. LituanicaSAT-1 mission garnered full support from the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė. During the mission greetings from the President were broadcast from space: “Greetings to all Lithuanians around the world”.

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Mission objectives covered the technical demonstration of the satellite’s capabilities and capture of the first Lithuanian pictures from space. All mission objectives were completed and recognized internationally.

LituanicaSAT-1 was fully operational for 5 months in orbit before decaying above the Atlantic Ocean. This mission was a historic event for Lithuania and introduced the country to the space community and the space technologies industry.

LituanicaSAT-1 at national radio and TV (LRT) studio before shipment for launch

LituanicaSAT-1 at national radio and TV (LRT) studio before shipment

Mission Achievements and Facts

  • First 10 Lithuanian pictures from space were captured and retrieved from LituanicaSAT-1;
  • Greetings from the President were broadcast over 1000 times;
  • LituanicaSAT-1 received great attention from the community of radio amateurs and was awarded the international designation OSCAR-78 or LO-78 by Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT);
  • LituanicaSAT-1 was covered by NANORACKS customer case study as a success story;
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  • FM repeater worked for more than 650 hours during the mission;
  • Satellite orbited Earth 2 358 times and traveled over 100 million kilometers;
  • Over 10 000  telemetry packets were received during the mission;
  • Signal from the satellite was received by correspondents from more than 20 countries;
  • The LituanicaSAT-1 mission was dedicated to the 80 years anniversary of the flight across the Atlantic by Lithuanian-American pilots Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas. This was why the satellite bore the name of the original aircraft used during this historic flight – “Lituanica”.
Deployment of the LituanciaSAT-1 (first above) from ISS. (Image credit: NASA)

Deployment of the LituanciaSAT-1 (first above) from ISS. (Image credit: NASA)

Jeffrey Manber about LituanicaSAT-1

The team managed to achieve project objectives in very short timescale and with limited funding. The project received wide public attention in Lithuania and was covered by the space logistics company NanoRacks (USA) customer case study.

NanoRacks’ Managing Director Jeffrey Manber gave this exclusive interview for LituanicaSAT-1 team where he discusses the importance of the project to the small satellite community and Lithuania as a country.

LituanicaSAT-1 Bus and Payloads

Conformed to a standard 1U CubeSat size with a total mass of 1.090 kg. It consisted of two on-board computers and two payloads in addition to the rest of the subsystems.

The primary payload of LituanicaSAT-1 was an FM mode V/U voice repeater. Its key purpose was to extend satellite to ground radio communication using only a low power hand-held radio and a simple directional antenna.

The secondary payload was a VGA camera. The captured pictures were downlinked to the mission control centre and analysed in order to verify correct satellite attitude. Stability, reliability and operation of both payloads were validated in space in the course of the LituanicaSAT-1 mission.

LituanicaSAT-1 Onboard Computer

The on-board computer was the central control unit of the satellite. It maintained the operating mode of the satellite, controlling the rest of the subsystems and data handling. The primary on-board computer of the LituanicaSAT-1 was based on the ARM Cortex-M4F microcontroller.

Secondary back-up computer was based on the Arduino ATMega 2560 microcontroller. Both were laid down on twain sides of the single printed circuit board. The secondary on-board computer ensured limited, but safe functionality of the satellite in case of failure of the main flight computer.

LituanicaSAT-1 Solar Panels and Power Unit

The solar panels of the LituanicaSAT-1 were made of mono silicon solar cells laid on a glassfiber-epoxy pad, built and donated by the Lithuanian based R&D company PrecizikaMET SC.

Electric power supply (EPS) consisted of P31u power board with a Li-Ion battery and solar panels which ensured the satellite’s functionality throughout the mission.

LituanicaSAT-1 Communication and Antennae

The communication subsystem (COMM) established and maintained radio communication with the ground station. COMM consisted of a He-100 transceiver with monopole antennas. The radio transceiver operated in two frequencies: 437 MHz for transmission (Tx) and 144 MHz for reception (Rx).

The LituanicaSAT-1 motherboard connected interfaces to service the satellite on the ground and also unfolded the radio antennas and powered the satellite during deployment in space.

LituanicaSAT-1 Attitude Control

The attitude determination system of the LituanicaSAT-1 consisted of permanent magnets creating control torque and soft magnetic material bars providing damping torque due to the hysteresis effect. The satellite was equipped with motion sensors, a gyroscope and a magnetometer in order to determine its attitude.

Project Timeline

  1. Design of the project: June 2012 – August 2013
  2. Satellite components’ manufacturing and testing: September 2012 – October 2013
  3. Satellite’s prototype integration and testing: March 2013 – October 2013
  4. Satellite manufacturing: March 2013 – October 2013
  5. Satellite transportation to USA: 25 October 2013
  6. Satellite qualification tests at NASA: November 2013
  7. NASA safety commission review and issue of permission for space launch: November 2013
  8. Start of commercial service mission of the International Space Station ORB-1 (launcher Antares, freighter Cygnus 2, launch pad 0A Wallop island, Virginia): 9 January 2014
  9. Satellite delivery to ISS: 12 January 2014
  10. Satellite launch from ISS into space, beginning of the mission: 28 February 2014
  11. Satellite mission in space: 28 February 2014 – 28 July 2014
  12. End of the mission: 28 July 2014

Project Partners

Inovatyvūs Inžineriniai Projektai
Vilnius University
DELFI
Lithuanian Radio and Television

Mission Patron

President of the Republic of Lithuania

PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

Dalia Grybauskaitė

Project Sponsors

LT Lab
Sertika
Precizika
Zoombook
MP Projektai
Refra
Standa
WEB systems
MP Dental
Fima
GPH nexas company
FL Technics

Special Thanks To:

Gintautas Vitkus (Lithuanian Assistance Foundation. Santa Monica, USA)

Rimantas Daraganas

Arūnas Daraganas

Justinas Lapinskas

Artūras Povilaitis