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Raumfahrt - Start von Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket mit ELaNa 43 (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites 43) mission

23.06.2024

NASA’s ELaNa 43 Prepares for Firefly Aerospace Launch

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A Satellite for Optimal Control and Imaging (SOC-i) CubeSat awaits integration at Firefly’s Payload Processing Facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California on Thursday, June 6, 2024. SOC-i, along with several other CubeSats, will launch to space on an Alpha rocket during NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) 43 mission as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative and Firefly’s Venture-Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 contract.
NASA

NASA is readying for the launch of several small satellites to space, built with the help of students, educators, and researchers from across the country, as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.

The ELaNa 43 (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites 43) mission includes eight CubeSats flying on Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket for its “Noise of Summer” launch from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The 30-minute launch window will open at 9 p.m. PDT Wednesday, June 26 (12 a.m. EDT Thursday, June 27).

NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) is an ongoing partnership between the agency, educational institutions, and nonprofits, providing a path to space for educational small satellitemissions. For the ELaNa 43 mission, each satellite is stored in a CubeSat dispenser on the Firefly rocket and deployed once it reaches sun-synchronous or nearly polar orbit around Earth.

CubeSats are built using standardized units, with one unit, or 1U, measuring about 10 centimeters in length, width, and height. This standardization in size and form allows universities and other researchers to develop cost-effective science investigations and technology demonstrations.

Read more about the small satellites launching on ELaNa 43:

CatSat – University of Arizona, Tucson

CatSat, a 6U CubeSat with a deployable antenna inside a Mylar balloon, will test high-speed communications. Once the CatSat reaches orbit, it will inflate to transmit high-definition Earth photos to ground stations at 50 megabits per second, more than five times faster than typical home internet speeds.

The CatSat design inspiration came to Chris Walker after covering a pot of pudding with plastic wrap. The CatSat principal investigator and professor of Astronomy at University of Arizona noticed the image of an overhanging light bulb created by reflections off the concave plastic wrap on the pot.

“This observation eventually led to the Large Balloon Reflector, an inflatable technology that creates large collecting apertures that weigh a fraction of today’s deployable antennas,” said Walker. The Large Balloon Reflector was an early-stage study developed through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program.

KUbeSat-1 – University of Kansas, Lawrence

The KUbeSat-1, a 3U CubeSat, will use a new method to measure the energy and type of primary cosmic rays hitting the Earth, which is traditionally done on Earth. The second payload, the High-Altitude Calibration will measure very high frequency signals generated by cosmic interactions with the atmosphere. KUbeSat-1 is Kansas’ first small satellite to launch under NASA’s CSLI.

MESAT-1 – University of Maine, Orono

MESAT-1, a 3U CubeSat, will study local temperatures across city and rural areas to determine phytoplankton concentration in bodies of water to help predict algal blooms.  MESAT-1 is Maine’s first small satellite to launch under NASA’s CSLI.

R5-S4, R5-S2-2.0 ­­­­­- NASA’s Johnson Space Center

R5-S4 and R5-S2-2.0, both 6U CubeSats, will be the first R5 spacecraft launched to orbit to test a new, lean spacecraft build. The team will monitor how each part of the spacecraft performs, including the computer, software, radio, propulsion system, sensors, and cameras in low Earth orbit.

NASA and Firefly Aerospace engineers review the integration plan for the agency’s CubeSat R5 Spacecraft 4 (R5-S4) at Firefly Aerospace’s Payload Processing Facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California on Wednesday, April 24, 2024.
NASA/Jacob Nunez-Kearny

“In the near term, R5 hopes to demonstrate new processes that allows for faster and cheaper development of high-performance CubeSats,” said Sam Pedrotty, R5 project manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “The cost and schedule improvements will allow R5 to provide higher-risk ride options to low-Technology Readiness Levels payloads so more can be demonstrated on-orbit.”

Serenity Teachers in Space

Serenity, a 3U CubeSat equipped with data sensors and a camera, will communicate with students on Earth through amateur radio signals and send back images. Teachers in Space launches satellites as educational experiments to stimulate interest in space science, technology, engineering, and math among students in North America.

SOC-i University of Washington, Seattle

Satellite for Optimal Control and Imaging (SOC-i), a 2U CubeSat, is a technology demonstration mission of attitude control technology used to maintain its orientation in relation to the Earth, Sun, or other body. This mission will test an algorithm to support autonomous operations with constrained attitude guidance maneuvers computed in real-time aboard the spacecraft. SOC-i will autonomously rotate its camera to capture images.

TechEdSat-11 (TES-11) – NASA’s Ames Research Center, California’s Silicon Valley

TES-11, a 6U CubeSat, is a collaborative effort between NASA researchers and students to evaluate technologies for use in small satellites. It’s part of ongoing experiments to evaluate new technologies in communications, a radiation sensor suite, and experimental solar panels, as well as to find ways to reduce the time to de-orbit.

NASA awarded Firefly Aerospace a fixed-price contract to fly small satellites to space under a Venture-Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 contract in 2020. NASA certified Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket as a Category 1 in May, which authorized its use during missions with high risk tolerance.

NASA’s Launch Services Program is responsible for launching rockets delivering spacecraft that observe Earth, visit other planets, and explore the universe.

Follow NASA’s small satellite missions blog for launch updates.

Quelle: NASA

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Update: 24.06.2024

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Firefly Aerospace Ready to Launch Alpha FLTA005 for NASA No Earlier Than June 26

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Noise of Summer mission will launch eight educational payloads for NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative

Firefly Aerospace, Inc., an end-to-end space transportation company, today announced its Alpha Flight 5 (FLTA005) mission, called Noise of Summer, is scheduled to launch no earlier than June 26. The 30-minute launch window will open at 9 p.m. PST.

“The Firefly team has rapidly matured our Alpha rocket and our responsive launch operations to deliver the dependable one-metric-ton rocket the market is demanding,” said Bill Weber, CEO of Firefly Aerospace. “We’re proud to support this NASA mission that will not only prove out the capabilities of Alpha as a repeatable, reliable launch vehicle, but also advance our mission of making space for everyone by supporting some incredible student-led CubeSat initiatives.”

Launching from Firefly’s SLC-2 complex at the Vandenberg Space Force Base, Alpha FLTA005 supports Firefly’s Venture-Class Launch Services Demo 2 contract with NASA that serves to validate the capabilities of launch vehicles that support a new launch class and provide more access to space for small satellites and spacecraft. The mission will deploy the following eight payloads selected through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, providing U.S. educational institutions and nonprofits with low-cost access to space.

  • CatSat – University of Arizona: CatSat is a technology demonstration of an inflatable antenna for high-speed communications. After reaching low Earth orbit, CatSat’s antenna will deploy and inflate to a diameter of just over one-and-a-half feet to transmit high-definition Earth photos to X-band ground stations at approximately 50 megabits per second, more than 5 times faster than typical home internet speeds.

 

  • KUbeSat-1 ­­- University of Kansas: KUbeSat-1 will demonstrate a new method to measure the energy and species of primary cosmic rays hitting Earth utilizing a Cosmic Ray Detector. The payload will also utilize High-Altitude Calibration technology to research very high frequency signals generated by cosmic ray interactions with the atmosphere.

 

  • MESAT1 – University of Maine: MESAT1 is a climate focused payload that will identify urban heat islands, determine concentration of phytoplankton in water bodies, and help predict harmful algal blooms. Four multispectral cameras on board will relay the data down to University of Maine’s ground station for further processing. 

 

  • R5-S4 and R5-S2-2.0 – NASA’s Johnson Space Center: R5-S4 and R5-S2 will be the first in a line of R5 spacecrafts launched to orbit, featuring Rendezvous and Proximity Operations Fiducial AprilTags to solve the problem of relative navigation between spacecraft. R5-S4 will also demonstrate a “spacecraft license plate” with a small blinking light that continuously flashes a unique number that can be read with a small telescope on the ground to identify and better track satellites among tens of thousands of objects currently in orbit. 

 

  • Serenity 3 – Teachers in Space: Licensed as an amateur radio broadcaster, Serenity 3 includes a suite of data sensors and a camera that will send data back to Earth and communicate with radios on the ground, allowing anyone with a ham radio to “talk” to Serenity. For details on communicating with and requesting photos from Serenity, visit www.TIS.org/Serenity-satellite.

 

  • SOC-i – University of Washington: Satellite for Optimal Control and Imaging (SOC-i) will test an algorithm aimed at supporting autonomous operations with constrained attitude guidance maneuvers computed in real-time aboard the spacecraft. The payload utilizes uses optimization-based attitude guidance methods to compute trajectories in real-time that meet a set of five constraints throughout the maneuvers.

 

  • TechEdSat-11 (TES-11) – NASA Ames Research Center: TES-11 will conduct several technology demonstrations, including an exo-brake with a deployable parachute-like device aimed at reducing CubeSat de-orbit times, and BrainStack-3, a graphics processing unit and neuromorphic processors that allow for artificial intelligence experiments in low Earth orbit. TES-11 is part of a series of collaborative missions called TechEdSat that pair university students with NASA researchers to evaluate new technologies for use in small satellites while providing student mentorship opportunities with engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

 

“Through innovative technology partnerships, NASA provides these CubeSat developers a low-cost pathway to conduct scientific investigations and technology demonstrations in space,” said Hamilton Fernandez, mission manager with NASA’s Launch Services Program. “NASA benefits by having a mechanism for low-cost technology development and scientific research to help bridge strategic knowledge gaps and accelerate flight-qualified technology. The students benefit through hands on experience, which develops the future workforce of the U.S. space industry.”

Alpha FLTA005 and Firefly’s future Alpha launches will continue to be performed as responsive space operations that are observed by members of the U.S. Space Force Tactically Responsive Space team to further define the training, infrastructure, and operational requirements for repeatable, on-demand launch capabilities. During the final launch operations, Firefly will transport the payload fairing to the launch pad and mate it to Firefly’s Alpha rocket within hours of the scheduled liftoff, compared to weeks in a typical operation.

For more details on the Alpha FLTA005 Noise of Summer mission and livestream, visit fireflyspace.com/missions/noise-of-summer/.

About Firefly Aerospace

Firefly Aerospace is an end-to-end space transportation company with launch, lunar, and on-orbit services. Headquartered in central Texas, Firefly is a portfolio company of AE Industrial Partners (“AEI”) focused on delivering responsive, reliable, and affordable space access for government and commercial customers. Firefly’s small- to medium-lift launch vehicles, lunar landers, and orbital vehicles provide the space industry with a single source for missions from low Earth orbit to the surface of the Moon and beyond.

Quelle: Fireflyspace

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Update: 2.07.2024

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Firefly Alpha Rocket Launch Attempt Scrubbed; Team Aims to Try Again Tuesday

Ground equipment issues spoil the countdown Monday night at Vandenberg Space Force Base
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The Firefly Aerospace Alpha rocket is readied to be raised into a vertical position at Vandenberg Space Force Base earlier Monday. The Monday night launch attempt was scrubbed, and the team may try again as soon as Tuesday night. Firefly Aerospace photo)

After two dramatic countdown aborts, the Alpha rocket team ran out of time for a third liftoff attempt Monday night at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The Texas-based Firefly Aerospace rocket remains standing at Space Launch Complex-2, awaiting the chance to conduct the mission dubbed “Noise of Summer.”

The team might try as soon as Tuesday night for the Alpha rocket’s fifth launch, Firefly officials said.

Seconds away from lifting off shortly after 9 p.m. Monday, the countdown halted abruptly. However, with a 30-minute window, the team recycled the countdown amid hopes of still getting the rocket off the ground. 

 

Despite their efforts, they had to stop the night’s second countdown and began the post-scrub chores so they could try another day.

“This is how it goes. You know the saying, you’d rather be on the ground wishing you were flying than flying wishing you were on the ground,” a commentator said on the livestream webcast.

Equipment on the ground reportedly caused the problems that forced the team to call off Monday’s countdown with a liftoff.

“Our launch today was scrubbed due to a ground support issue. The team has identified the solution and is working quickly to meet our next launch window,” Firefly representatives said.

The next attempt could come as soon 9:03 p.m. Tuesday, with the window remaining open for 30 minutes.

 

Alpha will carry eight CubeSats under a NASA contract to prove the capabilities of a new rocket and provide more access to space for small satellites and spacecraft.

Leading up to Monday night’s countdown, the team conducted a rapid launch operation, successfully transporting the payload fairing, or rocket’s nose cone, to the launch pad and mating it to the rocket 14 hours before the planned Monday night liftoff. 

Historically, those chores have been completed months or weeks in advance for some missions involving different rockets. 

If the rocket departs at the opening of the launch window, it could create a twilight effect. However, the marine layer seems intent on interfering with the view for spectators in coastal areas.

Even cameras at the launch site struggled to display Alpha on Monday, prompting a launch commentator to wryly ask, “Is the rocket getting less visible?”

A livestream of the countdown and launch is scheduled to begin 30 minutes before the liftoff and can be found by clicking here.

Quelle: Noozhawk

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Update: 3.07.2024

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Firefly’s Alpha Rocket Skips Tuesday Launch Try; Next Attempt Uncertain

The company will work closely with Western Range officials and its NASA customer to determine the next launch window
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A Firefly Aerospace Alpha rocket's payload fairing sports the NASA logo since it will deliver eight CubeSats. After the launch was scrubbed Monday night, the team hoped to try again at Vandenberg Space Force Base on Tuesday, but Firefly said it would stand down and doesn't know when the next try will be. Firefly Aerospace photo

Firefly Aerospace won’t try for liftoff of its Alpha rocket on Tuesday night at Vandenberg Space Force Base, and the next try remains up in the air. 

“Firefly has decided to stand down on today’s Alpha #FLTA005 launch to give the team more time to evaluate data and test systems from the first attempt,” the company announced Tuesday afternoon. 

The company will work closely with Western Range officials and its NASA customer to determine the next launch window, Firefly officials said.

The team experienced two last-minute aborts Monday night due to equipment on the ground. 

 

The Tuesday afternoon delay announcement came hours after Firefly officials said they remained on track for their next attempt. 

“Alpha & all 8 @NASA payloads remain healthy after last night’s scrub due to a faulty ground support equipment connection that has been fixed,” Firefly officials said mid-day Tuesday. 

The mission, called “Noise of Summer,” will place eight CubeSats with various purposes into orbit under a contract with NASA. 

This will be Alpha’s fifth launch since its debut liftoff in 2021. 

Quelle: Noozhawk

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Update: 4.07.2024

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Firefly Aerospace launches 8 cubesats to orbit on 5th-ever launch

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