Over the past four years, a team of volunteer experts from AMSAT-UK, in collaboration with their colleagues in the Netherlands at AMSAT-NL have been working on a new amateur satellite concept –The FUNcube Project
The initial plan was to design, build and launch a single spacecraft but further flight opportunities have become available over the past months and the project now comprises of the following missions:
FUNcube-1 is a complete educational single CubeSat project with the goal of enthusing and educating young people about radio, space, physics and electronics. FUNcube-1 was successfully launched from Russia on a DNEPR rocket on Nov 21st 2013 at 07:11:29 UTC and is performing well. More than 500 stations around the world are already receiving and decoding the telemetry and many schools are already involved.
FUNcube-2 on UKube comprises of a set of FUNcube boards that will fly as part of the separate UKube triple cubesat and it has identical goals. It is expected to be launched on a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in June 2014.
They are both intended to support the educational Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) initiatives presently underway in the UK and around the world.
The target audience consists of primary and secondary school pupils and the FUNcubes will feature a 145 MHz telemetry beacon that will provide a strong signal for the pupils to receive.
A simple receiver has also been developed. The FUNcube dongle connects to the USB port of a laptop to display telemetry and messages in a visually interesting and stimulating way.
The satellites also carry a materials science experiment, from which the school students can receive telemetry data and which they can compare to the results they obtained from similar reference experiments in the classroom. FUNcube is the first CubeSat project that will benefit this group.
FUNcube-1 is in a Sun-Synchronous Low Earth Orbit approx 670km above the earth. In such an orbit a satellite passes over most locations approximately 3 times in the morning, and 3 in the evening, every day. This schedule allows the morning passes to be used for educational purposes and the evening passes for Amateur Radio communications. FUNcube-2 is also expected to be placed into a similar orbit.
FUNcube-1 also carries a UHF to VHF linear transponder with approx 300mW PEP output and which can be used by Radio Amateurs worldwide for SSB and CW communications.
Measuring just 10cm x 10cm x 10cm, and with a mass of less than 1kg, FUNcube-1 is the smallest ever satellite to carry a linear transponder.
A key feature of the satellite is the absence of an over complicated, multi-faceted, multi- tasking On-Board Computer. For reliability and maximum power efficiency, the design has been kept as straight-forward as possible with satellite control being achieved using simple commands.
Also under development are:
FUNcube-3 – a fast-track mission to provide a “transponder only” payload on a 2U CubeSat which is part of the precursor programme for the QB50 mission. This spacecraft is also expected to launch on a DNEPR in June 2014.
FUNcube-4 – a payload on the ESEO mission. ESEO is a 20kg class microsat which incorporates experimental payloads from a number of universities around Euorpe. FUNcube-4 will provide similar telemetry to its predecessors but should have a more powerful transmitter and thus be even easier to hear. The ESEO project is being funded by the ESA Education Office.
AMSAT-UK has more than 350 individual members and is one of more than 20 such groups worldwide. AMSAT-UK teams have provided hardware for more than 10 satellites over the past 35+ years.
The FUNcube project has been partially funded by The Radio Communications Foundation. This is a Registered Charity (Number 1100694) set up in 2003 to fund efforts to bring the wonders of radio into the classrooms, universities and any other public place where hands on demonstration can influence understanding. Visit http://www.commsfoundation.org/
FUNcube contact: Graham Shirville G3VZV email g.shirville at btinternet.com