NanoSail-D Completes Mission

NanoSail-D (Credit: NASA)

NASA PR — After spending more than 240 days “sailing” around the Earth, NASA’s NanoSail-D — a nanosatellite that deployed NASA’s first-ever solar sail in low-Earth orbit — has successfully completed its Earth orbiting mission.

Launched to space Nov. 19, 2010 as a payload on NASA’s FASTSAT, a small satellite, NanoSail-D’s sail deployed on Jan. 20.

The flight phase of the mission successfully demonstrated a deorbit capability that could potentially be used to bring down decommissioned satellites and space debris by re-entering and totally burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The team continues to analyze the orbital data to determine how future satellites can use this new technology.

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Planetary Society Hails NanoSail-D, Looks for LightSail-1 Launch Opportunity

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sail. Credit: Rick Sternbach/The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society, which has a solar sail mission of its own in the works, is taking a keen interest in NASA’s NanoSail-D spacecraft that successfully deployed earlier this week:

NASA has now confirmed that their NanoSail-D satellite has deployed its 100-square-foot sail in low-Earth orbit. The Planetary Society’s own solar sail project, LightSail-1, will soon be finished and ready for launch. Bill Nye, Executive Director of the Planetary Society, congratulated the NanoSail-D team on their achievement:

“Congratulations! Although NanoSail-D kept us waiting, we’re very pleased that it has successfully deployed,” said Nye. “This could be the beginning of a fundamental improvement in how we de-orbit spacecraft.”

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NanoSail-D Deploys Solar Sail

NanoSail-D (Credit: NASA)

NASA MISSION UPDATE

Friday, Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. EST, engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., confirmed that the NanoSail-D nanosatellite deployed its 100-square-foot polymer sail in low-Earth orbit and is operating as planned. Actual deployment occurred on Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. EST and was confirmed today with beacon packets data received from NanoSail-D and additional ground-based satellite tracking assets. In addition, the NanoSail-D orbital parameter data set shows an appropriate change which is consistent with sail deployment.
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Amid Celebrations Over Dragon’s Success, Gloom Across Three Continents Over Space Failures

NanoSail-D - Lost in space? (Credit: NASA)

As upstart SpaceX was feted this week for the successful flight and recovery of its first Dragon spacecraft, engineers on three continents were puzzling out the reasons behind three high-profile failures in space, demonstrating anew the challenges associated with the difficult field.

In Russia, officials watched as a Proton rocket sent three navigational satellites to the bottom of the Pacific off Hawaii, delaying the nation’s efforts to provide full global coverage for its GLONASS program. Japanese engineers scratched their heads over why their Akatsuki probe ended up in orbit around the sun instead of Venus. And NASA is not quite sure what happened to an experimental solar sail satellite that blasted off into space from Alaska.

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Video: Minotaur IV Launches From Kodiak Island

NASA MISSION UPDATES

On Saturday, Nov. 20, FASTSAT made contact with ground stations at Svalbard, Norway and Kodiak, Alaska, and received commands from and communicated with mission controllers at the small satellite command center located at the Huntsville Operations and Science Control Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The satellite continues to function nominally as the commissioning phase of the mission continues.

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Hams Radio Operators Can Listen to New Satellites

NanoSail-D (Credit: NASA)

Hams Invited to Listen for New Satellites
ARRL Press Release

Five research satellites were carried to orbit Friday evening aboard a Minotaur V rocket from Kodiak Island, Alaska. All the satellites use Amateur Radio frequencies and hams have been invited to participate in their missions by monitoring and collecting data.

The FASTRACs are two relatively small “nanosatellites” built by students at the University of Texas-Austin. They enter orbit as a single spacecraft, but then separate into FASTRAC 1, known as “Sara Lily,” and FASTRAC 2, referred to as “Emma.” Both satellites use 1200 or 9600 baud AX.25 digital communication and transmit at 1 W output, so they should be receivable with omnidirectional VHF or UHF antennas and decodable by ordinary packet radio hardware and software.

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Planetary Society Wishes NASA Well on NanoSail-D Mission

NanoSail-D (Credit: NASA)

Planetary Society Statement
by Louis D. Friedman

NASA’s Nanosail-D is scheduled to launch on Friday — and we wish them well. Nanosail is an innovative development by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight and Ames Research Centers, and in many ways is the inspiration for the Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft, scheduled to be ready early in 2011 to carry out the first solar-sail propelled flight in Earth orbit.

The spacecraft is the same size and approximate mass as our own Lightsail-1, although Nanosail’s sail is smaller (3 meters on a side, instead of 4.5 meters). Nanosail will be pioneering the use of the Air Force Research Lab’s TRAC booms, which we will also be using on Lightsail-1. We’ll be interested in evaluating their deployment experience and understanding any implications to our own design.

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Minotaur IV Set to Launch FASTSAT, NanoSail-D into Space on Friday Night

A Minotaur IV rocket is set to launch a set of innovative nanosats from the Kodiak Launch Complex on Friday evening. The launch is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 19, at 7:24 p.m. CST. The launch can be viewed on the web at this page, http://www.nasa.gov/fastsat, on Friday, Nov. 19, starting at 7 p.m. CST.

Below are NASA’s descriptions of three of the satellites to be launched: FASTSAT, NanoSail-D, and O/OREOS.

NASA’s FASTSAT (Credit: NASA)

FASTSAT

NASA’s Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, will carry six small payloads to low Earth orbit, demonstrating a critical ability to provide low-cost and rapid response opportunities for scientific and technical payloads to get to space. FASTSAT is NASA’s first microsatellite designed to create a capability that increases opportunities for secondary, scientific and technology payloads, or rideshares, to be flown at lower cost than previously possible. It serves as a bus or platform that puts scientific research on the affordable fast track for governmental, academic and industry researchers.

The FASTSAT mission is a joint activity between NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program. The satellite was designed, developed and tested at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in partnership with the Von Braun Center for Science & Innovation and Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville.

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