LituanicaSAT-1 Satellite MissionSatellite 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”.
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
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;
- 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”.
LituanicaSAT-1 in Media
- NASA, 2015
As the first space mission from Lithuania, NanoRacks-Lituanica-SAT-1 paves the way for future space exploration from the northern European nation. Technology demonstrations testing low-cost, open-source hardware and software also benefit the international small-satellite community.
- ESA, 2014
The LituanicaSat-1 team has been able to show their country that space is not only political, but a spark for new business and economic growth in Lithuania.
- NANORACKS CEO, Jeffrey Manber, 2014
It’s wonderful to see that a country like Lithuania, your president is excited, that everybody is excited, and it’s wonderful that you could deliver it to your country and your people, without astronomical costs.
- Astro Watch, 2014
Lithuania is the country with no significant space exploration history, thus launching nation’s first satellite is really a major milestone in spaceflight for this Baltic state.
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
- Design of the project: June 2012 – August 2013
- Satellite components’ manufacturing and testing: September 2012 – October 2013
- Satellite’s prototype integration and testing: March 2013 – October 2013
- Satellite manufacturing: March 2013 – October 2013
- Satellite transportation to USA: 25 October 2013
- Satellite qualification tests at NASA: November 2013
- NASA safety commission review and issue of permission for space launch: November 2013
- 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
- Satellite delivery to ISS: 12 January 2014
- Satellite launch from ISS into space, beginning of the mission: 28 February 2014
- Satellite mission in space: 28 February 2014 – 28 July 2014
- End of the mission: 28 July 2014