ESTCube-1 is the first Estonian satellite and it was built in Estonia by students from Tartu University, Estonian Aviation Academy, Tallinn University of Technology and University of Life Sciences. The project started in 2008 and is now ready for launch. The satellite will be launched on May 4th, 2013. The satellite’s payload has been developed in conjunction with Finnish Meteorological Institute and German Space Center (DLR).
The main mission of the satellite is to test the electric solar wind sail, a novel space propulsion technology that could revolutionize transportation within the solar system. As Estonia’s first satellite, the project will also be used to build Estonian infrastructure for future space projects and to educate space engineers.
The satellite is a cubesat measuring 10 x 10 x 10 cm and weighing 1.05 kg.
The main objectives of the ESTCube-1 are:
* Test the deployment of a 10 meter tether, which is an integral part of the electric solar wind sail development. http://www.electric-sailing.com/
* Measure the force being exerted to the sail
* To take a picture of the tether.
* As an added mission to take a picture of the Earth and, if possible Estonia.
The electric solar wind sail is a novel method of propulsion within the Solar system using the flow of electrically charged particles emanating from the Sun, or the solar wind. The system was invented in Finland by Pekka Janhunen and ESTCube-1 is its first orbital proof-of-concept test.
The technology is based on the electrostatic interaction between the electric field generated by the satellite and the high-speed particles being ejected from the Sun. The spacecraft utilizing this method would first deploy a set of electrically charged wires, which allow to generate an electric field over a large area. This area effectively forms a “sail” that can be pushed by the charged particles by being diverted by it and therefore transferring momentum to the craft. A 1000 kg satellite would contain a 100 kg electric sail module that could deploy 100 tethers, each with the length of 20 km. Overall this would result in a net thrust of 1 N. This force might seem small, but this can be applied to the satellite over its entire lifetime using only the energy generated by satellite’s solar arrays. During one year this could increase the velocity of the craft by 30 km/s.
The technology would make it possible to travel in the Solar system cheaply and fast, allowing asteroid mining, landing missions to Mercury and transferring data by “data clippers”.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.