The Aalto-1 nanosatellite is a student satellite project. It started in the beginning of 2010, when a group of students made a feasibility study of the satellite in the framework of the Space Technology special assignment course.
Since then the project has created significant excitement among students and teachers alike. Like in many other studet satellite projects, new teaching methods have been applied and a significant interdisciplinary co-operation network inside the university has been created. Even if the launch of the satellite has been delayed by years, it has already has an important impact to the Finnish space community by creating several spin-off projects and laying foundation for a new industry branch in Finland.
The Aalto-1 project is coordinated by Department of Radio Science and Engineering and the team has members from five different departments of Aalto University. Additionally, a consortium of Finnish universities and space industry has been formed to support the satellite project and international relations with several foreign universities have been created.
These participants include Aalto University Department of Automation and Systems Technology, Department of Communications and Networking, Department of Applied Mechanics and addittionally Department of Physics of University of Helsinki (HY), Department of Physics and Astronomy of University of Turku (UTU), VTT, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Aboa Space Research Oy, Oxford Instruments Analytical Oy and some other Finnish and Estonian institutions and companies.
The Preliminary Design was finished in the end of 2011 and the construction of the Flight Model started in 2014. The launch was planned for autumn 2015 aboard a Space X Falcon 9 launcher, but because of the launch accident that took place in June 2015, the launch was delayed.
Now the the launch is slated for May 2016 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The launch was arranged by a Dutch launch broker Innovative Solutions in Space. Aalto-1 will be one of the around 80 other nanosatellites riding on Falcon 9 to space on same launch, making it the largest amount of satellites delivered to space on single launch.
Although the satellite is build according to student satellite concept, the scientific mission of the satellite is significant and contributes to space and space technology research in many areas.
Imaging Fabry-Perot spectrometer AaSI
VTT has developed a new concept based on the MEMS or Piezo actuated Fabry-Perot Interferometer to enable recording of 2D spatial images at the selected wavelength bands simultaneously and to reduce the size of the hyperspectral spectrometer to be compatible with light-weight UAV and small satellite platforms.
In the spectrometer the multiple orders of the Fabry-Perot Interferometer are used at the same time matched to the sensitivities of the image sensor channels. The operational wavelength range of the built prototypes can be tuned in the range 400 – 1100 nm and spectral resolution is in the range 5 – 10 nm @ FWHM.
Compact radiation monitor RADMON
This radiation monitor instrument with a novel readout concept allows a light-weight, low-power detector design with large enough dynamic range to be useful in various radiation environments from low-Earth orbits to geosynchronous orbit.
The main goal of the instrument is to demonstrate that the proposed concept, minimizing the amount of power-consuming and slow analog amplifier electronics, is suitable for space applications.
A space radiation monitor is designed to measure the fluxes of ionizing corpuscular radiation present in the near-Earth space inside radiation belts and during solar particle events.
The instrument is designed and manufactured by consortium led by University of Turku and University of Helsinki. Like the satellite itself, is RADMON also a student project.
Electrostatic plasma brake
The electrostatic plasma brake is a variant of the concept of the electric solar wind sail, a new kind of space propulsion method invented in Finland at Finnish Meteorological Institute.
The instruments consists of a single gravity-stabilized tether intended to deorbiting a satellite and to avoid leaving it in orbit as space debris after the mission.
Technically the most interesting part of the instrument is to demonstrate the deployment of a conducting thin multiline tether and to measure the electrostatic force exerted on the tether by the ram flow of the ionospheric plasma in different positive and negative tether voltages. Finally, if all goes well, it will also (hopefully) bring down the satellite demonstrating the usefulness of the plasma brake as a satellite deorbiting device.
A first version of the electric sail experiment flew on ESTCube satellite in 2012, but failed to deliver results.