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How a dream to connect everyone on Earth to the IoT will soon become a reality.
Nano satellites are the solution to easy, affordable access to the IoT for anyone, anywhere on Earth. For the past 2 years Hiber has been developing this innovative concept. And in November 2018 will launch two satellites into space.
A few weeks ago, the HiberOne and HiberTwo satellites were integrated into the quadpack deployer. The deployer is a protective case that carries the satellites safely into orbit. From this moment the satellites are sealed off from the outside world until they are released in space. Even though the deployer cases are still to be freighted to the launch site, this is when the countdown to launch officially starts.
Due to how the projects progressed, HiberTwo is launching before HiberOne. HiberTwo will be launched on Monday, 19th November from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. HiberOne will be launched on Monday, 26th November from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.
So let’s have a look at the launch in a little more detail. And how much effort goes into putting a satellite the size of a Rubik’s cube in space 600 km above our beautiful blue planet.
Think of the deployer as a ‘cradle’ or box for any device you want to launch into space. It keeps our CubeSat systems safe and sound. It is also designed to be adaptive and integrate with lots of different launch vehicles. Think of it as a very expensive global travel plug.
Internally, the deployer is designed to provide simple, well-defined interfaces with the CubeSats. Externally, it has everything needed work seamlessly with the launch vehicle.
Often, the deployer is made ready thousands of miles away from the launch site in a laboratory. Once the nano satellite is enclosed inside the deployer the whole integrated package with the Hiber satellite and the deployer is shipped to the launch base. It will only be opened again once in space.
On arrival at the launch site, the flight-ready launch adapter with its nano satellite payload is integrated with the launch vehicle.
It really is ‘plug and play’ on a very high-end, high-tech scale.
Selecting a proper launch facility for small satellites is a challenging task. We made an assessment of the different launchers that were available within the time frame we have, with a specific focus on being first-to-market.
The assessment revealed there was a significant risk in the launch phase. How can Hiber deal with a launch failure, and how can we manage potential delays in the launch date?
To reduce launch risks Hiber decided to go for a dual launch strategy selecting two launchers with launch dates close to each other.
The last stage of the rocket contains the Quadpack deployers with the CubeSats safely enclosed inside. This is the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOPS) and is one of the most critical phases of a mission. It is when engineers at Mission Control Spacecraft take over control of the satellite after it separates from the launch vehicle.
The LEOPS stage of the mission is when the satellites are proven to be safe to operate. That the ‘basics’ work. Engineers on the ground run a series of tests to determine if the satellite is functioning as they should and good to go. Most of these tests are pretty straightforward. Do we have a connection with the satellite? Is the power system working? Does the satellite firmware boot up? Is the temperature acceptable? If not, then a fix is found.
In space they say no one can hear you scream. If the satellite hasn’t booted up properly, you might just hear one in Mission Control, though. However, we really hope not.
Commissioning is the final part of the satellite going live. All the systems are tested one by one for any possible issues. Subsystems are also put through their paces. One by one they are tested to confirm all their data looks good and are ready to standby.
When everything on the satellite platform is confirmed as good to go, attention turns to the IoT payload system. Again, a sequence of tests is performed. Can the IoT payload antenna be deployed? Is the payload safe? Can we receive data from the Hiber CN’s? Can we send data to the Hiber Ground Station?
Finally, when the platform and payload tests are all done and successful, the satellites can be commissioned for operational service.
And everyone on Earth breathes a huge sigh of relief.
600 km above the Earth, Hiber’s nano satellites are ready and waiting. To start receiving and sending those 144 byte data packages that open up the IoT to everyone, everywhere on our planet. Be that the busiest city, darkest jungle, widest ocean, highest mountain, coldest pole or, as we at Hiber like to say, even your Mom’s backyard.
We don’t know what possibilities await. But one thing is for sure.
This is when the fun really begins.