Our mission is to support space research by launching the first billboard into space ever.
SpaceBillboard supports innovative space research. More precisely, we want to support research on CubeSats. The first CubeSats were developed as student projects in universities, but by now, space agencies such as NASA and ESA have recognized their potential. But what makes them so special?
Smaller is better
CubeSats are small satellites that could fit in the palm of your hand while traditional satellites are the size of a washing machine or even a mini-van. Because of this, CubeSats weigh less and consume less power. Moreover, CubeSats can be launched together with a larger satellite, making them also cheaper to launch.
Small, but powerful
While CubeSats may be small, they can definitely outperform a large satellite! The real power of CubeSats is revealed when they work together. By launching a constellation of CubeSats, we can assure that every area on Earth is at all times covered by a satellite, something which is impossible with one large satellite. And while a malfunction in the large satellite means the end of the mission, a problem with one of the CubeSats is far less disastrous.
Traditionally, space designers prefer to use components that have already proven to work in space because you cannot replace a broken component once the satellite is in orbit. Because of this attitude, the advancement of satellite technology progresses slowly. CubeSats represent a different design philosophy: Because CubeSats cost far less than a traditional satellite, CubeSat designers use as many commercially available components as possible, like the components in your smart phone. These components are cheaper and usually far more powerful than components in most existing satellites.
Space research 2.0
As a result of all this, CubeSats can be developed faster and cheaper. As such, CubeSats make space research accessible for universities all around the world and put space research in higher gear, leading to amazing possibilities!
How CubeSats can improve our lives
So the possibilities of CubeSats for advancing space research are vast. And that space research can also improve our lives here on Earth! Here are some examples of what CubeSats can do.
The internet has in no time become a big part of our lives. So much so, that life seems to come to a halt when no connection can be made.
With CubeSats, a constellation can be formed that can give internet accessibility to everyone on Earth, for a low cost. This way, travelers will be able to check interesting locations on the internet so that they can get the most out of their journey, farmers living in remote areas will be able to order products on-line and you will be connected to the world at all time.
The list of inactive satellites and man-made objects orbiting the Earth is ever increasing. This space debris poses a serious threat to active satellites, and worse, to astronauts.
CubeSats do not contribute to space debris because they are launched in low orbits and make their re-entry after a maximum of 25 years in orbit. In addition, research is currently going on to develop CubeSats that could remove space debris using claws, nets, magnets...
Science and exploration
There is a whole lot to discover and explore in space and CubeSats are perfect to help us with this exploration. For some fields of research, CubeSats are even the only acceptable type of satellite to do the trick. For example, spacecraft run the highest risk during re-entry at altitudes below 300 km, so we should definitely understand this part of space well. Because the satellites that perform this research also make their re-entry and burn up in a short time, it only makes sense economically to use cheap satellites such as CubeSats for this.
Orbiting way up above, satellites have a nice view on our Earth. From the very beginning of space research, satellites have given farmers crucial data about their crops and have saved numerous lives by predicting natural disasters such as hurricanes and forest fires. And when a disaster has struck, satellite imagery is analysed to make sure that help is sent where it is needed the most.
CubeSats can easily perform Earth observation for a fraction of the cost of current satellites. When used in numbers, they can assure that every area on Earth is covered, yielding valuable data for everyone on Earth.
Educate and inspire
We need passionate people to create progress in this world! Last but not least, CubeSats are a great means to motivate students to work on scientific and technical problems. CubeSat projects give students exciting hands-on experience with space projects and allow them to work together in a team. The most important product of a CubeSat project is often not the satellite, but the team.
Structure of a CubeSat
In essence, a CubeSat consists of several subsystems which are put on top of each other on a “stack”. These systems all work together to make sure the payload can perform its task.
Payload: The payload is the reason the satellite is built, for example a camera or measurement instruments in a scientific satellite.
ADCS: The Attitude Determination and Control System orientates the CubeSat in space, for example to point a camera to Earth.
OBC: The On-Board Computer is the brain of the satellite. It forwards information between the different subsystems and makes sure that they perform their tasks.
Comm: The communication system controls the communication with the mission controllers on Earth or with other CubeSats in space.
EPS: The Electric Power System contains the batteries that power the CubeSat.
Solar Panels: The solar panels recharge the batteries in the EPS.
Antenna: The antenna actually transmits the communication with the mission controllers and with other CubeSats.
What we will fund
So CubeSats can clearly play a very important role in the future of space research and with SpaceBillboard, we want to give CubeSats and space research an extra boost. Our wish list of things we want to do is quite long, but these are the most important ones:
Support student projects
CubeSats are great satellites to give students hands-on experience with satellite development. They contain all the important systems that are required in a satellite and because of their small size and low cost, university students can work on them too. Not only do these students learn a great deal this way, they also get inspired about space research! We will fund student projects at KU Leuven amongst others by constructing of test setups and buying necessary components such as an air bearing table to test our attitude determination and control system and 3D printing material to construct our star tracker baffle.
Fund a future launch
Once a satellite has been built, it still needs to get up in space. A rocket launch is quite expensive and acquiring a launch is often one of the big hurdles in a CubeSat project, but also the summum for space researchers and students. Therefore, we want to help fund a future launch for a KU Leuven CubeSat.
Build a ground station
And once a CubeSat has been launched, we have to get their results back on the ground. To get those results, and to send commands up to the satellite, we need a ground station. Therefore, we plan to fund the construction of a ground station. The good thing is, other CubeSats and satellites will be able to use it too! The more ground stations a satellite can use, the more frequently the operators on Earth can download data and the more useful the CubeSat becomes!
Start new research
We are only at the beginning of finding out what CubeSats can give us and we want to make sure that this research can enter new levels. We want to start up new and groundbreaking research at KU Leuven, such as formation flying with CubeSats, autonomous docking (two satellites connecting in space), high accuracy pointing platforms to make even more accurate measurements, etc.
No space debris
Because we are fond of space, it is very important to us that SpaceBillboard does not add to any useless space debris. Therefore, the billboard will be launched into space on board of a satellite that performs a valuable mission as its primary goal and we make sure that the billboard does not hinder this satellite.