AsianScientist (Jan. 30, 2019) – Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, has successfully launched and deployed its ninth satellite.
NTU’s first foray into space began 20 years ago. The first project was a communication payload codenamed Merlion, while the main satellite body was developed by the University of Surrey, UK. The latest satellite, called the AOBA VELOX-IV cube satellite, was built by a team led by Mr. Lim Wee Seng, executive director of NTU’s Satellite Research Centre, while its new altitude determination and control algorithm was developed by Professor Cho Mengu’s research team at the Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan. It was launched from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Epsilon-4 rocket.
Equipped with two solar panels which unfold in space to form a 30 cm x 20 cm solar array, the AOBA VELOX-IV’s primary mission is to capture Earth’s horizon during sunrise and sunset, which would pave the way towards eventually capturing the lunar horizon glow, a phenomenon first observed by Apollo astronauts in the 1960s. To achieve this goal, the AOBA VELOX-IV is equipped with a superior low-light camera, an altitude control algorithm and precise reaction wheels which can rotate and orient the satellite accurately at its target.
The AOBA VELOX-IV’s secondary mission is to test an improved quad-jet pulsed plasma thruster that generates ultra-hot plasma gases by burning solid teflon fuel. It is used to precisely control the satellite’s angular momentum and rotation, which would be required when orbiting the moon in any future lunar mission.
The scientists believe that a lunar mission may be achievable within five years, using satellites weighing no more than 100 kg each, which would be lighter than any other that has made the 384,400 km journey.
“Building on NTU Singapore’s satellite engineering expertise over the last decade, our latest satellite launches demonstrate our leading-edge space capabilities. We have shrunk advanced cameras, thrusters and the electronics capability of larger satellites into something the size of a shoebox,” said Professor Lam Khin Yong, vice president (research) at NTU.
Cho added that the AOBA VELOX-IV was chosen by the JAXA for its Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration Program because of the commercial value of technologies to be demonstrated by AOBA VELOX-IV, which are useful not only for the lunar mission but also for other Earth-orbiting cube satellite missions.
Source: Nanyang Technological University.
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