Working on TAU’s TAU-SAT1 nanosatellite project PREVIOUS PAGE: Tel Aviv; a team of IT developers

Tel Aviv University aims for the stars

The launch of the TAU-SAT1 nanosatellite into space, set to take place in 2021, will mark Tel Aviv University’s first step in joining the global space revolution. Read on to discover more about this exciting project and the people behind it

Tel Aviv University is set to go intergalactic: in early 2021, it plans to launch a research nanosatellite the size of a shoebox into space. Hitching a ride on a spacecraft sent by NASA and US aerospace company Northrop Grumman to resupply the International Space Station, the nanosatellite will aim to collect data on cosmic radiation. In preparation for the mission, the TAU-SAT1

nanosatellite is currently undergoing preflight testing at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), after which it will be sent to the U.S. for launch. The nanosatellite will orbit the Earth approximately 249 miles above sea level, at a speed of 17,150 miles per hour, completing an orbit around the planet every 90 minutes. “We know there are high-energy particles

moving through space that originate from cosmic radiation,” says Meir Ariel, director of the university’s Nanosatellite Center. “Our scientific task is to monitor this radiation and to measure the flux of these particles and their products.” Space is a hostile environment not only for

humans, but for electronic systems, too, Ariel explains. When high-energy particles hit

14 Israeli Academia | 2021

astronauts or electronic equipment in space, they can cause significant damage. “The scientific data collected by our satellite will make it possible to design means of protection for astronauts and space systems,” Ariel adds. Extracting the data collected by TAU-SAT1 is set

to be a challenging task, but the university’s researchers have set up a satellite station on the roof of the engineering building to tackle it. “Our station includes a number of antennas and an automated control system,” says Ofer Amrani, head of TAU’s miniature satellite lab. “When TAU-SAT1 passes over Israel, the antennas will track the satellite’s orbit and a process of data transmission will occur between the satellite and the station. Such transmissions will take place about four times a day, with each one lasting less than 10 minutes.” In addition to its scientific mission, the satellite

— which is expected to remain active for several months — will serve as a space relay station for amateur radio communities around the globe. As it has no engine, its trajectory will sag over time as the result of atmospheric drag. It’ll eventually burn up in the atmosphere and return to Earth as dust.

Joining the race for the next frontier The launch of TAU-SAT1 is Tel Aviv University’s first step in joining the global space revolution, which has seen research opening up to civilian institutions and companies. “We’re seeing a revolution in the field of

civilian space,” says Colin Price, one of the academic heads of the new center. “We call this ‘new space’, as opposed to the ‘old space’, where only giant companies with huge budgets and large teams of engineers could build satellites. As a result of miniaturization and modulation of many technologies, today universities are building small satellites that can be developed and launched in less than two years — and at a fraction of the budget in the old space.” Now that the infrastructure has been created,

researchers at Tel Aviv University can already start to develop TAU-SAT2. “The idea is that any researcher and any student, from any faculty at Tel Aviv University, or outside of it, will be able to plan and launch experiments into space in the future — even without being an expert in the field,” he explains.


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