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The First Austrian Satellite

The purpose of the BRITE-AUSTRIA / TUGSAT-1 project, funded by the Austrian Space Program, is the development of the first Austrian satellite. The scientific goal of this nanosatellite mission is the investigation of the brightness oscillations of massive luminous stars by differential photometry. The scientific instrument is an optical camera with a high-resolution CCD to take images from distant stars with magnitude of 3.5.

The spacecraft has a size of 20 x 20 x 20 cm and weights 7 kg. 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.

The target orbit is polar or sun-synchronous with a height of 800 km. The Mission Control Centre is currently set up in Graz. Additional ground stations are operated in Toronto and Vienna in a later step.

Phase 1 of the project was concerned with the design, development and qualification testing of the spacecraft.  The preliminary design was accepted in November 2006 and the specifications finalised in February 2009. Hardware construction and integration has started in April 2009. Flight Readiness Review was completed in autumn 2011.

Phase 2 dealt with the investigation of launch opportunities and the development of the ground operations and science software. The launch will take place on February 25th, 2013 with PSLV-C20 from Sriharikota/India.

The inter-disciplinary project is carried by space experts at the various institutes with strong involvement of diploma and PhD students. A major goal is sustainability. TU Graz 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.


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