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Austrian satellite to study the stars

The first ever Austrian satellite will be launched into space next month (December) as part of an ambitious project to understand more about the nature of the stars.

The project funded by the Austrian Space Program was initiated to develop, build and orbit the first Austrian satellite with the information gained hopefully used to allow further satellites to be launched in the future. The satellite will orbit 800 km above the Earth and be monitored by a mission control centre in Graz.

TUGSAT-1 project which is a miniature satellite weighing just 7 kg and about the size of a football was developed by the TU Graz and it was already completed and fully tested a year ago but had to wait until now so that the complicated process of planning the launch from India can be completed.

Once in space it will be involved in an investigation of the brightness oscillations of massive luminous stars. According to its webpage this will be achieved by "differential photometry".

"The scientific instrument is an optical camera with a high-resolution CCD to take images from distant stars with a magnitude of 3.5.

"It carries three computers: instrument processor, housekeeping and attitude control computer. About 6 W of electrical power will be generated by solar cells. The telemetry operates in the science S-band for the downlink and in the UHF band for the uplink. In addition, a VHF beacon is provided. The data rate lies between 32 to 256 kbit/s and the typical daily downlink volume amounts to 2 Mbyte.

"The satellite makes use of recent advances in miniaturised attitude determination and control systems. Precision three-axis stabilisation by small reaction wheels and a star tracker guarantee a pointing accuracy down to arc minute level. This will provide to the astronomers photometric data of the most massive stars with unprecedented precision which cannot be obtained from the ground due to limitations imposed by the terrestrial atmosphere."

TU Graz which has been working on the project for 7 years plans to develop a generic satellite platform which can be used for future low-cost space missions for which interest by the scientific community and industry exists.

The satellite was delivered to India on Monday and will now be loaded on board ready for the final launch as a secondary payload (piggyback) from the Shriharikota launch field in India. The rocket used will be a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

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