An interdisciplinary team at the Tel Aviv University Nanosatellite Center has overseen all aspects of the development of the TAU-SAT1 nanosatellite, now undergoing pre-flight testing with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
"TAU-SAT1 is the first nanosatellite designed, built and tested in an Israeli university, and the entire process, from conception through design, software development and testing, was done at TAU," said Dr. Ofer Amrani, head of the minisatellite lab - itself a collaboration between the Ivy and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering, the Raymond & Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences, and the Porter School of Environmental Studies.
The First 100% Israeli NanoSat in Space
Although other Israeli universities and institutes - including The Technion, Ariel University, and Ben-Gurion University - are also working on their respective satellite projects, the TAU-SAT1 is on the way to be the first on Earth's orbit.
TAU-SAT1 is primarily a research satellite and will serve as the platform for a number of experiments, one of which is the measurement and monitoring of cosmic radiation in space.
"We know that that there are high-energy particles moving through space that originate from cosmic radiation," shared Dr. Meir Ariel, Nanosatellite Center director. He explains that they are tasked with monitoring the radiation and measuring the flux of the particles. It resulted in the experimental setups incorporated into the satellite, developed by the Soreq Nuclear Research Center's Space Environment Department.
One of the challenges in the implementation of the nanosat is the extraction of data collected by the shoebox-sized TAU-SAT1. Once in orbit, the nanosatellite is expected to complete an orbit around Earth once every 90 minutes. To allow constant reception of data from orbit, the team built its own satellite station, situated on the roof of the University's engineering building. The specialized facility, which also works as its amateur radio station according to Dr. Amrani is equipped with antennas as well as an automated control system. For each of its orbit, it will pass over Israel once, allowing a transmission between the radio station and the satellite.
Israel in the Space Race Arena
Dr. Amrani explains in a statement that the upcoming launch of the TAU-SAT1 marks the University's first step in joining the "new space" revolution. He added that the idea behind this new space race is to make exploration available also to civilians, in contrast to previous space races which only included large government efforts - with attempts to launch satellites requiring a lot of resources and exclusive government control systems.
"We were able to complete the planning, building, and testing of our own satellite in less than two years," the laboratory head stressed. Dr. Amrani also explained how the team from Tel Aviv University created all the infrastructures related to the development of the nanosat - cleanrooms, testing facilities like a thermal vacuum chamber, as well as the transmission station on the roof.
"The idea is that any researcher and any student, from any faculty at TAU 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," Dr. Amrani added.
Back in September, Israeli-Swiss tech firm SpacePharma launched its Dido-3 nanosatellite into space. Almost as large as the TAU-SAT3, the small space lab was lofted into orbit for medical, chemical, and biological studies.