L'X launches the first operational French student satellite
X-CubeSat, the nano-satellite of École Polytechnique's student space center (AstronautiX), has just been launched in orbit on May, 17th, 2017 from the ISS. It joined the International Space Station (ISS) on April 22nd, aboard the Cygnus refueling vessel launched by an Atlas V rocket after six years of development.
In 2011, under the supervision of AstronautiX, the student space center of l'X, a team of Ingénieur Polytechnicien students started the collaboration the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI) in Brussels in order to realize a double CubeSat (two cubes of 10cm of edge, 1kg and 1W each). Today, six years later and after a successful launch into orbit, this nano-satellite will contribute to scientific innovation and research.
In a constellation of 36 nano-satellites built by universities in 23 countries, X-CubeSat's mission is to analyze the atomic oxygen content of the thermosphere, one of the least studied atmospheric layers. It is placed on the same orbit as the International Space Station, at 415 km altitude. The data collected will improve the models of the Earth's atmosphere as well as predictions of atmospheric re-entry of satellites. More specifically, it is part of the project QB50* driven by the VKI and financed by the European Union. According to Dr. Davide Masutti, head of the mission, "this is the first ever international study of the thermosphere coordinated in real time. The data generated by the constellation will be unique in many respects and will be used for many years by scientists from around the world. "
The nano-satellite of École Polytechnique is thus the fruit of six years of work and close collaboration between students, AstronautiX and two laboratories of l'X: the Laboratory of Plasma Physics (LPP) and the Laboratory of Meteorology Dynamique (LMD) in cotutelle with the CNRS, in collaboration with École des Mines ParisTech, AMSAT-Francophone, the National Center for Space Studies and the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics. Between the X2010 and X2015 classes, no fewer than fifty-seven Ingénieur Polytechnicien students, eight engineers, researchers and two trainees succeeded to realize this formidable project.
At the national level, it is part of the CNES funding program JANUS. Its objective is to promote space among students by allowing them to develop and send their own satellite equipped with scientific instruments in space. JANUS also promotes scientific education with a strong experimental dimension in the various space fields.
X-CubeSat will now begin a long descent of several months, slowed down by the Earth's atmosphere. For AstronautiX the adventure will continue, after the launch of the first operational French student satellite, École polytechnique's student space center can count on its ten other space projects allowing to keep dreaming about the conquest of space.
* This project received funding from the Seventh Framework Program of the European Union for Research and Technological Development under Grant Agreement No 284427. This publication is the sole responsibility of its author and the European Union can not be held responsible for the use that may be made of the information contained therein.