The Launch

As part of the QB50 mission, 28 CubeSats of the QB50 constellation, including Ex-Alta 1, were integrated into 11 NanoRacks 6U deployers earlier this year.

CubeSatOn April 18, 2017, the QB50-ISS group was launched with the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to
the International Space Station (ISS) atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Once on the ISS, the crew used the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) to deploy the QB50 satellites. Once deployed, the satellites began to orbit the Earth in the thermosphere, a layer of atmosphere that extends from about 95 km to 500 km. Of note, the ISS maintains an orbit about 403 km (250 miles) above Earth.

The satellite deployed at 2:55 a.m. Mountain time on May 26, 2017 from the International Space Station. Students at the university ground stations heard the satellite’s beacons and announced operational status. CubeSat mission durations and orbital life vary, though it’s hoped that Ex-Alta 1 will orbit for up to 18 months. Upon mission completion, the CubeSats fall to Earth, burning up harmlessly in the atmosphere.

The AlbertaSat team is already working on its second satellite, the Ex-Alta 2, which will be entered in the 4th Canadian Satellite Design Challenge in 2018. The Ex-Alta 2 will fly in-house developed technologies and experiments as scientific payloads and focus on open sourced cube satellite systems.