Members of the student team LEDSAT have travelled with their satellite and its deployer to Europe’s spaceport, the Centre Spatial Guyanais in French Guiana. This equipment will now be integrated onto a Vega rocket ready for launch later this summer!

The students were accompanied by a member of ESA’s Fly Your Satellite! team. This programme gives young scientists and engineers the opportunity to design and build a fully-functional CubeSat satellite to be launched into orbit. The students behind LEDSAT are from Sapenzia University in Rome. LEDAST Student team leader Paolo Marzioli shared some of his experience being at the Centre Spatial Guyanais: “Being here is an incredible experience and we are learning a lot from every little step we attend.”

The team undertook several important final procedures before their precious hardware could be loaded onto the rocket. In particular, they inspected their satellite and its deployer to ensure that no damage was suffered during shipping from Brno, Czech Republic. A thorough review of the transport logs, combined with an Integration Readiness Review, took place, and it appears that LEDSAT is in excellent condition. The deployer’s electrical connections to the launcher’s onboard electrics were also thoroughly checked, and a final test was made of the door opening mechanism.

The deployer with LEDSAT has now been integrated onto the launch adapter
The deployer with LEDSAT has now been integrated onto the launch adapter

Next, two CubeSats deployers, one of which houses LEDSAT, were installed onto each side of the launch adapter. They point in opposite directions so that the CubeSats are deployed into orbit away from each other to reduce the risk of collisions.

The main passenger of the VEGA, an Earth observation satellite called Pléiades Néo 4, will be integrated in a couple of days on top of the launch adapter. Afterwards the fairing of the VEGA rocket will encapsulate the main passenger and its CubeSats companions – including LEDSAT. The whole assembly with launch adapter and fairing will then be moved to the launch pad and installed on top of the VEGA rocket. This will happen a few days before launch, giving time for a dress rehearsal before launch.

The VEGA rocket will then launch by mid-August with LEDSAT on board!

The 1U CubeSat was developed by students from Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, and has additional support from the Italian Space Agency (ASI) in the IKUNS programme and the University of Michigan, which assisted in studying and conceiving LEDSAT.

As LEDSAT’s name suggests, the CubeSat has LEDs onboard that can be commanded by the LEDSAT team to flash for short periods of time. The LEDs will be observable through telescopes in order to investigate the use of LEDs to support optically tracking the CubeSat. The LEDs cannot be seen by the naked eye, and will also not disturb astronomical observations. The reason is that the magnitude of the LEDs are expected to always be between 8 and 13 and the eye can only see down to a magnitude of 6. The magnitude scale is reversed, meaning a higher value magnitude will result in a less bright object. Additionally, the LEDs can be turned off at any time by the LEDSAT team.

Stay up-to-date with LEDSAT here and take part in the radio amateur competition here.

  • ESA also photo