Feeds

NASA nano-satellite belatedly ejects from orbiting mothership

Boffins ask radio hams for help with small sun-jammer

Remote control for virtualized desktops

NASA has announced that a small "nano-satellite" which was supposed to be released from a larger spacecraft in orbit on 6 December has finally separated from its mothership. The space agency is appealing for help from ham radio enthusiasts in picking up signals from the little NanoSail-D.

NASA concept of the NanoSail-D with sails deployed in orbit

Don't rush me

"What a pleasant surprise this morning when our flight operations team confirmed that NanoSail-D is now a free flyer," commented NASA honcho Mark Boudreaux, in charge of the FASTSAT mothership spacecraft and the various experiments and nanosatellites carried by it.

NanoSail-D is a small solar-sail system, designed to unfurl into a relatively small square of thin polymer three days after separation from the FASTSAT carrier. High-velocity particles streaming through space will strike the "sail", producing a small amount of thrust.

In the case of NanoSail-D this thrust will be used to de-orbit the little craft, and cause it to re-enter the atmosphere sooner than it otherwise would have done. The idea is to prove that solar sails could be used to de-orbit larger satellites: at present this is done using conventional thrusters. That uses fuel, and so cuts into a satellite's operational life.

NASA controllers ordered the FASTSAT to deploy the NanoSail-D back on 6 December as planned. The door behind which the nanosat travelled opened, but it didn't come out. Now it appears to have ejected itself spontaneously. If the little module is working correctly, it will deploy its sail on Saturday. However, NASA engineers were initially unsure whether the tardy orbiter was functioning.

"We’re anxious to hear the beacon which tells us that NanoSail-D is healthy and operating as planned," said Dean Alhorn, top boffin on NanoSail-D, in a statement. "The science team is hopeful to see that NanoSail-D is operational and will be able to unfurl its solar sail."

The space agency appealed for help from radio enthusiasts in picking up the nanosat's beacon, broadcasting on 437.270 MHz. The NanoSail-D's location can be found here for those who want to try tuning in, and NASA asks that anything detected be reported to the NanoSail-D dashboard website here. The dashboard is now reporting that beacon signals have been picked up.

NASA boffins now seem confident that the NanoSail-D mission can proceed usefully, though the belated, spontaneous deployment seems likely to affect it adversely. In December, when the space agency thought deployment had happened as planned, Alhorn said:

"We had to carefully plan and calculate the ejection time, so we'd be lined up over the United States and our ground controllers to execute the next phase of the mission."

That planning would now appear to have gone awry.

There's more from NASA on NanoSail-D here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.