PW-Sat, a student Cubesat project, has just been delivered to ESTEC in the Netherlands. This is an important step towards the launch of this mission.
PW-Sat is a small-satellite project led by the Warsaw University of Technology (Politechnika Warszawska – PW in short). The project was initiated in 2005 and since the beginning it was designed and developed as a 1U CubeSat (one unit – one litre of volume). The main purpose of PW-Sat is to demonstrate a speed-up of the deorbitation process and to familiarize students with a real satellite project. Throughout the years, the design of PW-Sat changed several times – for example a sail-type experiment was tested. After some changes in design, a tail-like (length – 200 cm) structure was chosen, which will be tested once PW-Sat reaches orbit.
PW-Sat was selected by the European Space Agency to be launched aboard the new European small-size rocket (Vega) together with eight other small CubeSats. After some delays, it is probable that Vega rocket will launch for the first time in January 2012. PW-Sat will be launched on this maiden flight.
In order to secure the place on the first Vega rocket, the flight model of PW-Sat had to be assembled in the first week of October 2011. Later a short set of tests (vibrations, functional tests and vacuum-thermal checks) were done, after which the satellite was sent to ESTEC in Netherlands. On the 18th of October 2011, the PW-Sat ha sreached ESTEC as the first delivered Cubesat, where it will undergo a series of additional tests.
This small student’s CubeSat is going to be first Polish satellite, fully designed and assembled in Poland. Although Polish universities and science institutes have a long tradition in space missions, as demonstrated in several different and ambitious instruments, still a full satellite was never built in Poland. Just few months later, the first Polish scientific satellite – BRITE-PL “Lem” – will be launched, probably on board a Dnepr rocket.
If no further delays occur and Vega launches on time, there will be a big success for Polish students to celebrate. Not only will they be the constructors of Poland’s first satellite. They will also win a kind of small “first satellite race” with the BRITE-PL “Lem”, which is being built and supported fully by governmental scientific institutions.