Finland’s first satellite Aalto-2 launched to the international space station

Hendrik Ehrpais | 20.04.2017

In the evening on Tuesday 18 April 2017, Aalto-2, the CubeSat designed and built by students at Aalto University was launched with the Atlas V booster rocket towards the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting the Earth. Three days later the satellite reached the ISS and it will be deployed in orbit on May 8 or 15.

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‘We have been preparing for the launch of either Aalto-1 or Aalto-2 for a long time. There was a big crowd of us looking forward to and celebrating this historic event in Otaniemi’, says Professor Jaan Praks who is the leader of both projects and close collaborator of Tartu Observatory.

Aalto-2 will take part in the international QB50 Mission, the aim of which is to produce the first ever comprehensive model of the features of the thermosphere, the layer between the Earth's atmosphere and space. Dozens of nanosatellites from different parts of the world will take part in the mission. Because Aalto-2 is part of a larger project, it will be registered in Belgium in the same way as the project’s other satellites in order to simplify the permit procedures.

Aalto-2, which only weighs two kilogrammes, is carrying the multi-Needle Langmuir Probe (mNLP)  payload developed at the University of Oslo for the measurement of plasma characteristics. ‘Our team's primary goal will be to demonstrate how well the satellite platform designed and built at Aalto University functions in the challenging conditions of space', says  Tuomas Tikka, a doctoral candidate at Aalto and one of the founders of Reaktor Space Lab.

Aalto-1 project, while started two years earlier in 2010, has faced launch delays due to Falcon 9 failure and is still waiting for its launch. While Finland has provided many space instruments for international missions for decades, Aalto-1 is considered the first Finnish satellite as it was Finnish-build satellite and it is officially registered in the country.

Tartu Observatory and the ESTCube team have cooperated with the Aalto satellite team in development of attitude determination and control algorithms, as well as motor for plasma brake on Aalto-1.

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