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University of Würzburg launches UWE-3 mini satellite

Aigner: "Proof of the wealth of ideas in the aerospace location of Bavaria"

MUNICH Bavaria's Technology Minister, Ilse Aigner, congratulates the University of Würzburg on the launch of its third mini satellite: "This experiment demonstrates Bavaria's strength in the development of new technologies for space travel and contributes to securing Lower Franconia a place among the elite of European aerospace locations for the future, too. I would like to congratulate Prof. Klaus Schilling and his team on their amazing success and wish them a successful mission."

At 8:10 this morning, exactly as planned, a Russian Dnepr rocket blasted off from the Yasni cosmodrome in southern Russia. On board – just a small part of its cargo – University of Würzburg experimental satellite 3 (UWE-3). Aigner explains: "This tiny, cube-shaped satellite, each edge measuring just ten centimetres, fits almost everything that makes a modern satellite what it is into the smallest of spaces. The only thing missing is its own engine for checking its position. This engine is currently being developed for UWE-4, using funding from the Bavarian aerospace funding programme. Through this programme, Bavaria is supporting the transition from expensive large-scale satellites to swarms of these mini satellites with a whole new range of uses."

In the past, mini satellites like the UWE family were predominantly used for cost-effective experiments, but they offer a wide range of other possible uses, such as in meteorology, earth resources observation and communication. Aerospace technology is currently seeing a paradigm shift, just like in information technology in the 1970s. Back then, it was the jump from mainframe computers to local PCs. Today, it is the transition from multifunctional large-scale satellites to swarms of mini satellites that cooperate with one another largely independently. They often weigh less than a kilogram and each edge measures around ten centimetres. This small construction presents big challenges for the hardware and software – challenges solved using innovative approaches by Prof. Schilling and his team.

After the launch, UWE-3 will be released at a height of 600 kilometres. The University of Würzburg expects to receive the first useful signals around three hours after the launch, at 11:30 am. Thanks to its low orbit height, UWE-3 circles the Earth around 15 times a day, although it will only be able to make contact with the ground station at the University of Würzburg for around ten minutes twice a day. In between, it works autonomously. In order to save on costs, UWE-3 was not built from components that are able to withstand the extreme conditions in orbit in the long term (no radiation-hardened components). A service life of just three months is therefore anticipated, although UWE-1 and UWE-2 continued to transmit signals for much longer.

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