FUNcube-2 Launch Set for June 19


Sponsors of the FUNcube Project — a joint initiative of AMSAT-UK and AMSAT-NL (Netherlands) — have announced that FUNcube 2 will launch from Russia on June 19. The initial plan of the now 4-year-old project was to design, build, and launch a single spacecraft. As further flight opportunities have become available over the past months, however, the FUNcube Project has expanded. UKube-1 will “host” FUNcube-2 — actually a set of FUNcube boards that will fly as a sub-system of the 3U UKube-1 CubeSat. Its goals are identical to those of FUNcube-1. The goal of the FUNcube project is to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiatives now underway in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. The target audience is primary and secondary school students.

“It is believed that, immediately after deployment and activation, UKube-1 will commence transmitting a CW beacon, and that this will be later followed by an AX25, 1k2 BPSK beacon,” AMSAT-UK announced on May 7. “Both beacons will be on 145.840 MHz. The FUNcube-2 payload, with its telemetry downlink for educational outreach, is expected to be tested later.”

Once it's operational, FUNcube-2 will include a 400 mW inverting SSB/CW transponder (435.080-435.060 MHz up/145.930-145.950 MHz down), with a beacon on 145.915 MHz. The UKube-1 satellite, being built by Clyde Space in Glasgow, Scotland, would be the UK Space Agency’s first CubeSat, as well as the first satellite built in Scotland.

Believed to be not too far down the road, a FUNcube-3 400 mW transponder-only payload on the pre-cursor QB50P1 CubeSat host is planned for launch “no earlier than the second half of June” on a Dnepr LV vehicle from Russia. Initial beacon signals from the main transceiver are expected to be AX25, 1k2 BPSK packets on 145.815 MHz.

FUNcube-1 (AO-73), an educational 1U (10 × 10 × 10 cm) CubeSat with the goal of enthusing and educating young people about radio, space, physics, and electronics, went into space last September. The satellite is performing well, and more than 500 stations around the world are receiving and decoding the telemetry, with many schools involved. FUNcube-1 is the smallest satellite ever to carry an Amateur Radio linear transponder — a 300 mW inverting SSB/CW type (435.150-435.130 MHz up/145.950-145.970 MHz down). The transponder has been switched on during weekends, and it is operational when the satellite is in eclipse. The telemetry is on 145.935 MHz (BPSK). The transmitter power also is 300 mW, but it operates only when the satellite is in sunlight.

A FUNcube guide developed by ARRL Education & Technology Program (ETP) Director Mark Spencer, WA8SME, aims to maximize the educational focus of the tiny AO-73 satellite. Spencer’s Pragmatic Guide for Using the FUNcube (AO-73) Materials Science Experiment in the Classroom prompts readers to dig beyond AO-73’s Amateur Radio transponder and telemetry uploads and downloads and “take a closer look at what is really going on” as the satellite orbits Earth.

The receiver, the FUNcube dongle, connects to the USB port of a laptop to display telemetry and messages “in a visually interesting and stimulating way,” AMSAT-UK said. The satellites also carry a materials science experiment, from which students can receive telemetry to compare with results obtained from similar reference experiments in the classroom.

In addition to FUNcube-3, still in the wings is FUNcube-4, a payload on the ESEO microsat mission. ESEO incorporates experimental payloads from a number of universities around Euorpe. FUNcube-4 will provide similar telemetry to its predecessors but with a more powerful transmitter. The ESEO project is being funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) Education Office.

The FUNcube Project has been partially funded by a not-for-profit, The Radio Communications Foundation, set up to fund efforts that bring radio communication into classrooms and to “any other public place where hands-on demonstration can influence understanding.”