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Elementary School’s SSTV CubeSat Now Set to Deploy from ISS on May 16


After postponements earlier this year, the STMSat-1 CubeSat constructed by pupils at St Thomas More (STM) Cathedral School in Arlington, Virginia, now is set to deploy from the International Space Station on Monday, May 16, between 1400 and 1500 UTC. The spacecraft is equipped with a slow-scan TV (SSTV) payload that will transmit on the 70 centimeter Amateur Radio band (437.800 MHz).

The school won a NASA competition for the launch. The satellite is the first to be designed and built by grade schoolers, who have been supported by NASA technical advisors and 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, but that event was postponed until early March, before being put on hold again.

“The STM Sat-1 mission is to perform Earth observation and engage grade-school students around the world as remote Mission Operation Centers,” the STMSat-1 website explains. The satellite project is part of the school’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education initiatives. 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, so the school can receive the SSTV images and temperature readings the satellite sends back. The students already have tested their CubeSat by sending it aloft on a tethered balloon.

The SSTV camera onboard STMSat-1 will transmit a Martin-2 image every 30 seconds. It will not transmit a beacon signal, however. The youngsters are hoping it will send back images of Earth as seen from space. The transmitter runs 3 W, and there is no onboard data storage capability.

STMSat-1 has an estimated lifetime of at least 9 months. 



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