Secure Site Login


Elementary School’s STMSat-1 CubeSat Now in Orbit


[UPDATED 2016-05-17@ 1307 UTC] Students at St Thomas More (STM) Cathedral School in Arlington, Virginia, erupted into cheers and celebration on May 16 as their STMSat-1 CubeSat finally was deployed from the International Space Station at 1440 UTC. Equipped with a slow-scan TV (SSTV) payload, STMSat-1 will transmit on the 70 centimeter Amateur Radio band (437.800 MHz FM). The satellite is the first to be designed and built by grade schoolers, who were supported by NASA technical advisors and by local radio amateurs. Transported to the ISS in December by an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft, the kit-built satellite first had been scheduled for release in mid-February. That deployment was postponed until early March, however, before being put on hold again. The satellite project is part of the school’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education initiatives.

The satellite was to have begun transmitting 45 minutes after deployment, but it has not yet been heard from.

Also deployed from the ISS on May 16 were other school-built satellites carrying payloads operating on Amateur Radio frequencies. These included MinXSS-1 (437.345 MHz); CADRE (437.485 MHz and 3.404 GHz), and NODES (437.100 MHz 1200 bps AX.25 and 2401.2-2431.2 MHz 115.2 kbps spread-spectrum FSK).

St Thomas More includes students from pre-kindergarten through grade 8. The project aims to engage other schools around the world as “Remote Mission Operation Centers” (RMOCs). NASA’s Technology Demonstration Office provided the school with a mobile “clean room” to ensure that the construction phase met with strict guidelines and standards for launch and deployment from the ISS. The space agency also provided the school with an antenna to receive the SSTV images and temperature readings the satellite sends back.

The SSTV camera onboard STMSat-1 will transmit an SSTV image every 30 seconds. It will not transmit a beacon signal, however. The transmitter runs 3 W, and there is no onboard data storage capability. STMSat-1 has an estimated lifetime of at least 9 months.