The TeideSat project was born as an initiative of students from the University of La Laguna with the desire to know more about satellites and Space, which led to constitute a team whose objective is the design, construction, placement in orbit and operation of a nanosatellite based on the CubeSat standard.
It is the first satellite of the University of La Laguna and one of the first entirely from Canarias.
The TeideSat project consists of 4 fundamental pillars:
- Scientific Objective: To establish an optical data downlink between the nanosatellite and the surface of the Earth.
- Technological Objective: To design and build a perfectly functional nanosatellite that complies with European Space Agency quality standards.
- Academic Objective: To learn about areas of knowledge related to space outside the academic discipline of each member, with the aim of becoming a much more complete and versatile professional.
- Dissemination Objective: The TeideSat team believes in the importance of scientific-technical dissemination among people of all ages, but with special emphasis in the young. It devotes part of its time to this end trying to increase their interest in this topic.
2.1 – Scientific objective
Optical communication can be defined as any form of communication that uses light as a transmission method.
In all types of communication, a transmitter, a receiver, a medium, a message and a code are mainly necessary. In the TeideSat Project each of these elements are defined as follows:
2.1.1 – Transmitter: The Satellite
The satellite will have a powerful system of LEDs capable of emitting light pulses with which a message will be sent from the orbital space to the ground station.
2.1.2 – Receiver: Telescope
The light pulses emitted by the nanosatellite will be received by a telescope located on the surface of the Earth.
Thanks to the extraordinary characteristics of the night sky at the summits of the Canary Islands, where two of the best observatories in the world are located, El Teide Observatory (Tenerife) and El Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory (La Palma), it is essential to take advantage of the opportunity to try to receive the data using these facilities or, failing that, by placing a smaller telescope of our own at the aforementioned sites.
2.1.3 – Medium: The Earth’s atmosphere
The satellite will be orbiting the Earth in low Earth orbit (LEO) between 380 and 420 kilometers in height. Therefore, the emitted light pulses must traverse the Earth’s atmosphere before reaching the receiving telescope. During the design process, the scientific requirements of the mission are of paramount importance to properly understand how turbulence and other variables related to the atmosphere affect the quality of the message received.
Field of view, Length (340 Km), Width (340 Km) and Height (400 Km). Credit: Teidesat
Cubesat LED brightness in apparent magnitude units.
2.1.4 – Message: “Hello_World!”
In the world of computing, performing a “Hello_World” is known as the action of displaying a first simple message when studying a programming language. Therefore, it is considered the first practice of any student related to computer science.
On this occasion this expression becomes literal, since coding a “Hello_World!” in light pulses and emitting them from a nanosatellite to Earth presents a first milestone for the project loaded with poetry and with clear reference to students.
Subsequently, throughout the lifetime of the nanosatellite will be a series of transmissions that will begin with a simple “Hello_World,” and will end up trying to push to the limit this type of technology by analyzing the highest rate of information transfer that the project is able to send and receive properly.
2.1.5 – Code
The code is the way the information is represented in the stream of 0s and 1s that satellite will be transmitting to ground. The problem here is the fact that there are many factors that could interfere with these transmission, turbulence or clouds are just two of them. The solution is to implement an error correcting code to maximize the amount of information transmitted. In our case we will be working with two “forward error correction” codes.
Currently the use of Turbo Codes is widely used in communications with satellites by major space agencies, so its implementation in this mission is key to its success.
On the other hand, as an added value, the team is carrying out some experiments on land to understand and use the Polar Codes protocols, in order to implement them also in the satellite, due to the fact that they are the natural evolution of the sector, and the space agencies are very interested in testing their use in space due to the several technical advantages that this error correction system provides.
2.2 – Technical Objective
The main technological objective of this project is the design and construction of a nanosatellite based on the CubeSat standard of a unit, 1U = 10x10x10 cm.
In order to build a nanosatellite that is fully operational in space, it is necessary to take into account many aspects that are not very common in engineering projects on the surface of the Earth, such as the degassing and weakening of materials used by the lack of atmospheric pressure and the extreme temperature conditions that exist in the orbit, operating errors and breakage of electronic components due to high energy radiation from space and the Sun, attitude control and orientation of the nanosatellite in conditions of microgravity, energy supply and storage, thermal control and a long etcetera of tough technical requirements imposed by space agencies and by the launchers in order to minimize the chances of mission failure.
The technical requirements of the ground segment must also be taken into account, as well as the part of the project located on the surface of the Earth, consisting mainly of the stations for sending and receiving information by radio for the control of telemetry and the sending of commands, and the telescopes used to download the message by optical communication.
2.3 – Academic Objective
The University of La Laguna has an extensive and prestigious tradition in the field of astrophysics, where it has achieved a level of excellence recognized worldwide. Unfortunately, for some space-loving students, their training is restricted exclusively to the study of astrophysics, the area of physics applied to astronomy. For students who wish to have another type of contact with space, this is the only option they can aspire to without leaving the Canary Islands.
It is for this reason that a group of young space enthusiasts proposed to join forces to carry out a real scientific-technological project where they could apply some of the knowledge acquired in their respective disciplines and learn more about Space Sciences and Aerospace Engineering, fields that are not currently being offered at the ULL.
On the other hand, the personal challenge of undertaking the project of putting something built by oneself into space is an invaluable life experience and a powerful inspiration engine for undertaking future projects. Therefore, the TeideSat project is also the breeding ground for future professionals within and outside the space sector in the Canary Islands.
Moreover, given the heavy workload involved in this project, it is essential to seek synergies with the disciplines each student studies, so that part of the time invested in the project can be made profitable in the form of works for class or End of Degree or Master and PhD projects. In this way, the involvement of the students can be what the project needs without negatively affecting the academic performance of the participant.
2.4 – Dissemination Objective
“To serve as a source of inspiration, just as others were for us.”
Being fully aware of the importance of scientific and technological dissemination in society as a whole, being at the same time an engine of social and economic change, the TeideSat team devotes a constant amount of time, energy and resources to scientific-technological dissemination, both promoting the project itself and encouraging interest in basic science among people of all ages, with special emphasis on childhood and adolescence.
That is why the team systematically attends many scientific fairs and events on the island of Tenerife, aimed at promoting among children and adults the importance of critical thinking, scientific method and teamwork.
Some of the events in which TeideSat has participated are:
- European Space Talks – La Laguna (Organizers)
- III Foro Gamer de Los Realejos
- Crea ConCiencia Los Realejos
- V Foro de Ciencia y Tecnología de Los Realejos
At the moment we are working to go to give talks to schools and institutes on the island to bring the space to the classrooms. In addition, students will be given the opportunity to do their bit in this mission.
3 – ESA – European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) is an international organization of 22 member states dedicated to space exploration. In addition to leading many of the most important space missions of the moment, ESA has a training programme for students from European Union member states. One of these programs is called Fly Your Satellite!
3.1 – FLY YOUR SATELLITE!
ESA’s Fly Your Satellite! programme supports teams of students from European universities in the designing, building and testing of a CubeSat-type nanosatellite, supporting the process and finally launching the satellite into orbit as a secondary payload using one of its rockets.
This recurrent programme is currently testing the satellites of the last promotion of European teams that enrolled in the programme, but it is expected that this year’s new call will be launched shortly. The TeideSat team wants to apply to this call for which it has been preparing for almost a year.
Fly Your Satellite! poster
3.2 – ESA Courses
As part of its training programme, ESA makes a series of practical courses available to students from universities in member countries, given at its facilities in Belgium and the Netherlands. In these courses students have the opportunity to live for a week side by side with highly qualified staff working for the space agency, and to learn first-hand different aspects of space mission design.
Some members of the TeideSat team have been fortunate enough to be awarded four different scholarships to receive this valuable training. The experience and knowledge acquired during these practical sessions have provided an important boost to the project, an invaluable personal advance, a very important source of motivation and an opportunity to establish contact with other European nanosatellite teams.
4 – The team
The Teide team is composed of a total of 25 students from the University of La Laguna at undergraduate, master’s and doctoral level in industrial engineering, mechanics, electronics and computer science, as well as in physics and astrophysics.
The photo above shows the first promotion of the TeideSat team at the beginning of 2018. At the moment, the team is in a process of expansion, recruiting new talents from scientific and technical disciplines but also looking for students interested in participating in the faculties of journalism, law, economics and fine arts, in order to cover all the flanks of a project that needs a powerful scientific-technological background, but that cannot neglect the fiscal and legal aspects and the support in the work of artistic design, both when designing documents and for the elaboration of merchandising, as well as communications and relations with society.
For more information about the team members please check the following link: https://teidesat.hyperspacegroup.com/the-team/
5 – HyperSpace Association
With the aim of giving legal basis to the TeideSat project, the Hyperspace Association has been constituted, registered in the Register of Associations of the Government of the Canary Islands.
6 – The Satellite
The target satellite of this project is in the range of nanosatellites due to its small size and weight, which implies a very considerable reduction of the budget compared to larger format satellites.
For this project and in keeping with the requirements of the Fly Four Satellite! training programme, a design based on the CubeSat standard will be carried out; small-format satellites that can be held in the palm of the hand and have a cube shape measuring 10x10x10 cm. The maximum mass of a CubeSat is 1.33 kg, which considerably reduces construction and launch costs. This nanosatellite format is currently being closely monitored by the international aerospace community due to its countless applications and low cost.
7 – Test of concept
A ground experiment is currently being developed to understand all atmospheric variables and to test the technology of the optical communications system intended for use in space.
This experiment is composed of 2 modules, one emitter, which will send the modulated light pulses, and another receiver, which will have the necessary instruments to collect and decode these pulses.
To test how atmospheric disturbances affect optical communications, it is necessary to characterize the emitter and receiver in a previously controlled environment (a laboratory), and then begin with field tests.
Once the operation of the equipment has been characterized, the test round will begin. To this end, the transmitter is placed in front of the receiver and batches of light pulses are sent between the two units, firstly, at a distance of a few meters and under controlled conditions. As the experiment progresses, the test distance will be increased.
The objective of these tests is to understand how extinction and atmospheric disturbances affect the quality and veracity of the message sent by light pulses.
7.1 – Construction of the Dummies
The equipment for issuing and receiving of the test of concept has been called “Dummies”.
The structure has been manufactured by hand by the Mechanical Engineering students using remains of aluminium from the machining workshops.
Raspberry Pi 3 b+ and Arduinos were used to control the transmitter and receiver modules.
A printed circuit board designed and routed by the Electronics section has been built to control the power of the powerful LEDs required by the experiment.
The computer section has written in python and C++ the program that encodes and decodes the light pulses using error correction algorithms.
8 – Budget
- Budgets for other missions between €8,000 and €500,000
- According to our first approximations it will surely stay at around 25,000 €.
9 – Funding
The project will be financed through three main ways:
- Public investment: A first list of potential public institutions potentially interested in helping to finance the TeideSat project has been drawn up. Meetings have already been held with some town councils interested in sponsorship.
- Private investment: In the coming months there will be a campaign to attract sponsors and private collaborators, ranging from small local companies to multinationals that, through their corporate social responsibility or foundations, wish to collaborate with projects such as ours.
We have contacted similar projects whose experience in the search for sponsorship has been more than proven. They will be taken as a first reference.
- Crowdfunding: Small contributions from individual collaborators who wish to contribute to the project altruistically or in exchange for a series of small counterparts, such as merchandising, appearance of their name in the project credits, raffles, etc. For this purpose, the following platform for donations has been set up via the hyperspace website:
From February 2019, the search for sponsors and collaborators for the project will start.