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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