Satnews Daily
September 21st, 2009

It's a First! Swiss Satellite In Space — This Cube Isn't Cheese  

SwissCube website It's official — The date of the first ever Swisscube satellite launch is planned for next Wednesday September 23 according to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO); liftoff is expected at 8:23 a.m., Swiss time.

A celebration at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne will include all institutions, private partners, students and researchers who collaborated to make this “Swiss first” happen.

Switzerland's first satellite, named SwissCube, will travel on the PSLV (C14 mission) from Satish Dhawan Center near Chennai. This picosatellite (10x10x10 cm3, 1 kg) has been developed at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland in collaboration with several other swiss engineering schools, universities and private industry; the University of Neuchâtel and five universities of applied sciences in western and German-speaking Switzerland. RUAG Space provided extensive support to the students during the construction of the satellite. About 200 students participated in the elaboration, fabrication and tests of the satellite.

RUAG website The SwissCube has been designed mostly in the framework of undergraduate semester and master projects. Students learned systems engineering and concurrent design, and have been responsible for delivering on time and on budget complex sub-systems whose correct operation is essential to the success of the mission. During its development, several new technologies could be investigated, tested and for the ones ready, integrated in the flight satellite.

As main sponsor of the SwissCube project, RUAG Space not only supported the construction of the satellite financially, their experts at Switzerland's space company also provided the young engineers with advice and hands-on assistance during the project. RUAG engineers advised the students among other things on the design of the satellite structure and the electronics for the flight control system (avionics). Numerous tests were also conducted on the satellite at RUAG's Emmen and Nyon sites.

"SwissCube is an excellent example of how universities and industry can cooperate to their mutual benefit," states Axel Deich, Head of RUAG Space Switzerland. "The project gave the students an opportunity to gather industrial experience which will be of great value in their professional future," Deich continues. "And Swiss Industry too will ultimately benefit: four of the young engineers involved in building the Swiss satellite have meanwhile been taken on by RUAG Space as full-time employees."

  The SwissCube scientific mission will focus on the observation of the airglow phenomena, a photoluminescence of the atmosphere occurring at approximately 100 km altitude. The objectives are thus to observe oxygen emission in order to characterize the airglow intensity as a function of the observation angle, the altitude, the latitude and the local time. The minimum science duration is 3 months, with an extended science mission of duration up to one year. This project further validates the successful collaboration between India and Switzerland.