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UK Space Agency OKs teeny-tiny satellite

Liftoff expected late 2012

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The UK Space Agency has approved the design of UKube-1, the UK's first CubeSat mission.

Last week, a team of engineers from Clyde Space, a microspacecraft maker, submitted their design for the UKube-1 to be reviewed by a team of experts, who concluded that the design was sound.

The chosen design is the first step on the mission that will eventually lead to UKube-1's launch on a Russian Dnepr rocket, which has been converted for small satellite launches, towards the end of next year.

A CubeSat is a type of mini-satellite for space research that usually has a volume of a litre, a mass of around 1.3kg and typically uses off-the-shelf components.

The advantage of building a spaceship like this is that it's cheap and it can be launched quickly, so a CubeSat programme yields "more launches, more science and more terrestrial applications", according to the UK Space Agency.

"A number of current CubeSat missions, operated by other countries, are targeted at science applications and especially at studies that can be carried out at low-Earth orbits such as space weather studies, atmospheric science, energetic particle studies and spacecraft damage studies," the agency said when it announced the plan for the first CubeSat.

The UKube-1 is being built to allow Britain to "test cutting-edge new technologies in space", according to its mission outline.

After a competition to decide what experiments would get to go up on UKube-1, a space imager, a "FUNCube" educational subsystem, a random number generator using single event upsets, TOPCAT, a GPS receiver to measure ionosphere and plasmasphere and myPocketQub, another education-linked experiment, will all be going up.

You can find out more about these experiments here. ®

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