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PRE-LAUNCH ANNOUNCEMENT for the Illinois Observing Nanosatellite (ION) on June 28, 2006



SUBJECT:
PRE-LAUNCH ANNOUNCEMENT for the Illinois Observing Nanosatellite (ION)
on June 28, 2006


CONTACT INFORMATION:
* Subscribe to ION email list (few emails/year): 
cubesat-l-subscribe-request@listserv.uiuc.edu

* Send beacon reports to:
cubesat@ece.uiuc.edu

* Public Relations / Program Manager:
Purvesh Thakker (pthakker@uiuc.edu)

* ION Web Site / News:
http://cubesat.ece.uiuc.edu

* TLEs (ION is in PPOD A): 
http://littonlab.atl.calpoly.edu/pages/missions/dnepr-launch-1/initial-t
les.php


LAUNCH ANNOUNCEMENT:
Almost exactly five years after setting its sights on space, the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will launch its first
student-developed satellite on June 28, 2006.  Over these past years,
over 125 students across seven engineering disciplines have contributed
to the project.  In addition to the primary educational mission that
CubeSat programs perform, the University of Illinois has strived to also
demonstrate the utility of these tiny satellites by following through on
real missions including a science mission.  The ION team hopes that the
resulting product will help expand the perceptions of what these tiny
satellites can do someday leading to future space sensor webs.  As
discussed below, the team is fully prepared for launch and looking
forward to hearing the little guy phone home.  See below for additional
information about the satellite.


BEACON INFORMATION:
We are looking for ham radio operators who can listen for our
satellite's beacon, which will be broadcast at 437.505 Mhz immediately
after launch.  The beacon is sent in plain text over AX.25 every 5
minutes, and anyone listening with a TNC in connectionless mode should
be able to pick it up.  Please e-mail
cubesat-l-subscribe-request@listserv.uiuc.edu to subscribe to our
mailing list and receive announcements including launch information.
Send beacon reports to cubesat@ece.uiuc.edu with your name/location, any
data that you receive, time of contact, and signal strength.

* Frequency:  437.505 Mhz, AFSK
* Speed: 1200bps
* Format: Plain text over AX.25 
* When:  Every 5 minutes
* Include: name, location, data, time, signal strength


LAUNCH PREPARATIONS:
Here is a "lessons learned" story that is sure to be passed from CubeSat
generation to CubeSat generation.  Mike, Leon, and I recently visited
ION in California for some final preparations including adjusting
schedules and recharging the main batteries.  When we arrived, the
satellite was completely silent.  To make a very long story short, we
held a midnight meeting at Denny's with a few snippets of external
information and somehow diagnosed the most likely cause as a dead clock
battery.  In order to replace the clock battery without disassembling
the satellite, we operated on it using surgical tools and a borrowed
dentist's mirror.  The dentist's office we visited graciously agreed to
loan us a mirror, but they said that we could have come up with a better
story.  When the dentist finally came out, he quizzically opened with,
"You guys are doing what?"  For some reason, they didn't believe us when
we told them that we were students launching a satellite out of Russia
using a converted nuclear missile... as if we could make up a tale that
tall!!  We are happy to report that after an intense three days in the
emergency room, ION made a full recovery and is now on its way to Russia
with plans to circle the globe... every 95 minutes.

Although difficult, the launch delays this past year have had some nice
side benefits.  We were able to review ION's design while designing
ION's successor (temporarily named ION-2).  More importantly, the delays
have given us time to upgrade our ground station including the
installation of a new antenna tower.  We are currently practicing
communications with existing satellites using this tower and plan to
maintain the old antenna tower as a backup until the new setup has
proven reliable.  Finally, the delays have given us a chance to take a
breather after an intense couple of years of development.  We are now
recharged and preparing for launch much more thoroughly than we might
have a year ago.  In addition to ground station upgrades, we are in the
process of developing tools for managing/graphing/analyzing/processing
satellite data and posting it to the Web.  We are also carefully
defining a number of experiments and would welcome any input that you
may have.  A list of these can be found below.  As a whole, we plan to
be very well organized with our information and procedures.

Our organization will consist of two teams this summer.  The Ground Team
handles day-to-day file exchanges, organization of information,
preliminary data analysis, and command recommendations.  The information
is then distributed over the Web to the Command Team, which consists of
ION veterans now scattered across the nation.  The Command Team performs
a detailed data analysis, makes the final command decisions in a
conference call, and prepares/double checks config files for upload to
the satellite.  All-in-all launch preparations have been progressing
very nicely, and we should be fully prepared for the launch on June 28.



******************************************
**** BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT ION ****
******************************************
Also, visit http://cubesat.ece.uiuc.edu


HISTORY OF ION:
ION is the first project of the Illinois Tiny Satellite Initiative
(ITSI), which is organized through an interdisciplinary senior design
course.  The course objectives include training students to identify,
formulate, and solve engineering problems as part of a large multi-team
project.  Over the past five years, over 125 students across seven
engineering disciplines have contributed to the project.  Most students
participate in their senior year with some starting earlier or
participating as graduate students.  One to two graduate Teaching
Assistants provide day-to-day program management and continuity across
semesters as the students in the course continually change.  In
addition, three faculty advisors provide mentorship and numerous other
faculty provide technical support as required.  Typically, five to six
teams of three to five people each participate in the project.  Other
ITSI projects include the primary payload for the Thunderstorm Effects
in Space Technology Nanosatellite (TEST) and a successor to ION
(temporarily named ION-2) that began one year ago.


ION MISSIONS:
In addition to the primary educational mission that CubeSat programs
perform, the University of Illinois has strived to also demonstrate the
utility of these tiny satellites by following through on real missions
including a science mission.  The ION team hopes that the resulting
product will help expand the perceptions of what these tiny satellites
can do, possibly even extending to future space sensor webs.  

The first of ION's five science and technology missions involves
measuring Oxygen airglow emissions from the Earthís Mesosphere.  This
helps scientists understand how energy transfers across large regions
contributing to our knowledge of atmospheric dynamics.  Second, ION
tests a new MicroVacuum Arc Thruster (µVAT) with high dynamic range
advancing a key enabling technology for small satellites.  This serves
as a stepping-stone towards a versatile low mass satellite propulsion
system capable of lateral movement and finely controlling attitude. Such
a capability might someday allow greater interaction with other
spacecraft.  Third, ION tests a new SID processor board designed
specifically for small satellites in Low Earth Orbits (LEO). By
utilizing a Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) processor that is radiation
hardened through system design techniques, it allows small satellites to
take advantage of the latest in small, low power, high performance
processor technology with increased reliability.  Fourth, ION tests a
small CMOS camera for Earth imaging on this and future spacecraft.
Finally, ION performs ground based attitude stabilization demonstrating
an important capability for the future growth of CubeSats.  IONís design
also includes solar cell power point tracking, dual redundant batteries,
a custom communications protocol, a custom file system, automatic
telemetry publication to the Web, and future support for distributed
ground stations.


SCIENCE MISSION DETAILS:
IONís primary mission consists of measuring molecular Oxygen airglow
emissions from the Earthís mesosphere using a 760nm photometer.  Oxygen
chemistry at this 90km altitude emits a dim glow of light, and IONís
photometer should show perturbations in this airglow caused by various
effects such as the presence of mountains.  These perturbations ripple
through the atmosphere in 15km to >2500km waves carried by wind.  By
studying these waves, scientists learn how energy transfers across large
spatial regions contributing to knowledge of upper atmospheric dynamics.
This airglow emission is absorbed by the Earthís lower atmosphere
preventing study with Earth-based sensors, and satellite detection has
the added benefit of global coverage.  In addition, IONís orbit gives it
a unique opportunity to gather this data around the Polar Regions and at
higher latitudes.  


ION EXPERIMENTS:
* Establish Contact with UI's First Student Satellite
* Survive the First Two Weeks
* Test / Characterize All Systems
* Determine Satellite Attitude
* Stabilize Satellite
* Measure Oxygen Airglow
* Photograph Earth
* Test SID Processor
* Test Thrusters
* Test Polyethylene Shielding
* Connect with Distributed Ground Station Network
* Deorbit Satellite


CUBESATS:
So far, some 100 organizations have registered intentions to develop
CubeSats, and about a dozen have launched.  Success rates have been
surprisingly high considering that these satellites are developed by
inexperienced students often as the first spacecraft from their
institutions.  The CubeSat Spec, developed by Stanford and Cal-Poly
Universities, standardizes the mechanical interface between CubeSats and
their PPOD launchers.  This allows developers to efficiently combine
multiple CubeSats and include them as secondary payloads with ongoing
launches.  CubeSats typically have a mass of one kilogram with
dimensions of 10x10x10cm, and they can be combined into double or triple
CubeSats to create a larger satellite.  Three CubeSats fit into
launchers called PPODs developed by Cal-Poly University.  They then
mount multiple PPODs onto a launch vehicle as secondary payloads.  The
CubeSat spec specifically minimizes risk to the rest of the launch
vehicle and payloads.  For example, switches at the bottom of each
satelliteís feet turn off all electronics while the satellite waits for
deployment in the PPOD, and the PPOD completely encloses the CubeSats.
The satellites also go through vibration, thermal-vacuum, and bake out
procedures prior to launch.  
----
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