Alpha (CayugaSat) Satellite

Alpha (CayugaSat)
Alpha (CayugaSat)
Alpha (CayugaSat)
Spacecraft name Alpha (CayugaSat, CU-Alpha)
Spacecraft type CubeSat
Units or mass 1U
Status not launched, expected in 2024
Launcher Falcon 9, (CRS-31)
Entity name Cornell University
Institution University
Entity type Academic / Education
Headquarters US
Partners Ithaca High School

Technology demonstration mission to deploy a 1x1m light sail with four tiny “chipsats” .


Technology demonstration mission to deploy a 1x1m light sail with four tiny “chipsats” called Sprites attached. CayugaSat planned to have 4 by 4.5 m solar sail.

The focus of the mission is to increase flight heritage for small, with four self powered radios called Chipsats. The Chipsat design is open source, and will contribute to the amateur radio art by providing amateurs worldwide with an inexpensive, small and easy to use UHF telemetry option to support amateur telemetry activities on Earth and in space.

The Alpha CubeSat mission will use the Chipsats to support operating a small light sail into low Earth orbit. This novel sail architecture fully separates from the CubeSat that deploys it, essentially becoming its own free-flying spacecraft. The light sail can be tracked by telemetry using the Chipsats.

When in sunlight, the four ChipSats will power on and transmit telemetry from sensors (GPS position, temperature, acceleration, and angular velocity). Collecting this telemetry on the ground is essential for tracking the sail.

This mission establishes flight heritage for the next generation of ChipSats (gram-scale spacecraft w/ milliwatt-level transmitters) and shall be the first mission to verify a communications link with low-gain amateur ground stations. This is an important step in the democratization of space. For just $200 of equipment ($100 per spacecraft and $100 for ground station) amateur radio operators could achieve communications with an Amateur satellite.

Furthermore, the mission exercises the TinyGS global network of low powered, low-cost ground stations. Participation: Due to the limited orbital lifetime of the sail (see 5.7), there may only be a few passes over the ground station at Cornell University. The Alpha CubeSat mission therefore plans to enlist the help of amateur radio enthusiasts around the world, primarily through an established open-source ground station network known as TinyGS. These ground stations shall share received telemetry with a central database, allowing Cornell students to understand the sail’s deorbit trajectory and attitude kinematics.

Sources [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]
Photo sources [1] [2]
Keywords Propulsion, Solar sail, Chipsats-Sprites

Last modified: 2024-05-29

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