NEE-01 Pegasus (Ecuadorian Space Ship-01, a CubeSat Mission)
Pegasus is a 1U CubeSat project of EXA (Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency) which started in 2010. The overall objective of the project is to serve as technology and capability demonstrator - the goal is to serve the elementary schools of Ecuador with a spaceborne learning tool platform which will inspire the next generation of domestic engineers. 1) 2) 3)
The EXA ground rule for funding is the development of an indigenous low-cost satellite mission — with the consequence that all design/development and manufacturing steps have to be done within the country, requiring a pioneering effort by all Ecuadorians involved.
The project is striving to achieve the following technology demonstration goals:
• To survive the space environment and transmit telemetry for at least a year
• Transmit real time, live video from orbit and OSD telemetry
• To test the space environment attenuation capabilities of the SEAM/NEMEA shield
• To test the passive release/deploy nano-morphodynamics technology of the multipanel ultrathin solar arrays
• To test the high energy generation/storage matrix technology
• To test the hyper amplification matrix ARGOS-MINOTAUR
The educational goals of the mission are:
• To serve as an elementary education spaceborne platform
• To serve as an undergraduate education spaceborne platform
• To demonstrate the benefits of an educational satellite.
The spacecraft was designed with a 1U CubeSat form factor having dimensions of 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm (in launch configuration) and a mass of ~1.2 kg. The satellite features two solar panel wings with 3 panels on each side for a total of 6 panels per wing, its deployed dimensions are 10 cm x 10 cm x 75 cm. The ADS (Antenna Deployment System) is based on memory metals; it is deployed using the solar radiation (heat).
The satellite was completely designed and built in Ecuador, without any foreign assistance, by an EXA engineering team led by Ronnie Nader.
RF communications: Center frequency at 910 MHz, bandwidth = 25 MHz, EIRP=34.1 dBm, carrier = FM, modulation audio: AMTW.
Figure 1: Illustration of the Pegasus CubeSat with the deployed solar wings (image credit: EXA)
Launch: The NEE-01 Pegasus (aka NEE-01 Pegaso) CubeSat was launched as a secondary payload on April 26, 2013 on a Long March 2D vehicle of China. The launch site was the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China. The primary payload on the flight was GF-1 (Gaofen-1), an Earth observation mission of CNSA, China. 4) 5)
Orbit: Sun-synchronous orbit, altitude of 650 km, inclination =98.05º, LTAN (Local Time on Ascending Node) = 22:30 hours.
The secondary payloads were:
• TurkSat, a nanosatellite (3U CubeSat, ~ 4 kg) of ITU (Istanbul Technical University), Istanbul, Turkey.
• NEE-01 Pegasus, a 1U CubeSat of EXA, Ecuador.
• CubeBug-1 of INVAP, a 2U CubeSat of Argentina, sponsored by the Argentinian Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation, INVAP S.E., Satellogic SA, and Radio Club Bariloche.
The secondary payloads of the flight are coordinated by ISIS (Innovative Solutions In Space, BV) of Delft, The Netherlands.
The project invited the Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE) to participate in the launch phase and operations of the CubeSat mission. The FAE and the EXA will operate the satellite jointly, sharing the technological and scientific benefits of the mission as a first step towards establishing a national satellite program.
• Since May 8, 2013 NEE-01 Pegaso is only active in the presence of the coded signal sent by the HERMES-A ground station, it is currently operating in high power mode, that means that it remains off until activated by the ground station to conserve power. 6)
The spacecraft's instruments include a dual visible and infrared camera which allows the spacecraft to take pictures and transmit live video from space. The video camera is a 720p HD camera to send live video from space using a 3 W TV transmitter in the 915 MHz (33cm) band along with a beacon that provides a Morse code ID, a SSTV (Slow Scan Television) image and Ecuador’s national anthem. 7)
The NEE-01 Pegasus CubeSat uses the existing HERMES-A ground station, located in Guayaquil, Ecuador. However, the reception sensitivity of the station had to be dramatically enhanced to receive and decode a real time video transmission from orbit arriving to the antenna with signal levels as low as -160 dbm. The solution was the ARGOS (Advanced Radio signal Gathering from Orbiting Spacecraft) manifold which resembles more a radio telescope than a normal ground station. 8)
The HERMES station project was started in 2009; it rendered a ground station not only able to efficiently operate satellites in the HF to K-bands, but it also became the first Internet to orbit gateway, enabling the nation to acquire many capabilities such as space traffic monitoring and even the capability to relay live scientific satellite signals to any point in the world.
So far, the HERMES-A ground station has rendered excellent results. It is also used as a laboratory permitting the project team to experiment and to learn for ourselves about satellite technology from firsthand experience. — In addition, the HERMES-A ground station is providing its tracking services to other space missions of the international community, such as those of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Michigan State University, Graz Technical University (TUGSat-1), and the Swiss EPFL (Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne).
Occasionally, the HERMES-A station is being used in support of national security events, when monitoring possible spacecraft collisions (range of 6000 km), like the event of February 5, 2010 between a Iridium 33 debris and the EPFL SwissCube.
When the HERMES-A/Minotaur G/S gateway was complete in April 2010, the EXA Directorate approved a project proposed by Cmdr. Ronnie Nader, the development of the first
1) Ronnie Nader, Hector Carrion, Sidney Drouet, Manuel Uriguen, Ricardo Allu, Gonzalo Naranjo, “NEE-01 PEGASUS: The first Ecuadorian Satellite,” Proceedings of IAC 2011 (62nd International Astronautical Congress), Cape Town, South Africa, Oct. 3-7, 2011, paper: IAC-11.B4.1.6, URL: http://www.academia.edu/772243/NEE-01_PEGASUS_The_first_Ecuadorian_Satellite
4) “China launches Gaofen-1 satellite,” Xinhua, April 26, 2013, URL: http://www.china.org.cn/china/2013-04/26/content_28668480.htm
5) Rui C. Barbosa, “China back in action with Long March 2D launch of Gaofen-1,” NASA Spaceflight.com, April 25, 2013, URL: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2013/04/china-back-in-action-long-march-2d-gaofen-1/
7) “Two TV CubeSats from Ecuador,” Southgate, Feb. 14, 2013, URL: http://www.southgatearc.org/news/february2013/two_tv_cubesats_from_ecuador.htm#.UZNCM0pWIRo
8) Ronnie Nader, Hector Carrion, Manuel Uriguen, “Argos: Hyper amplification manifold for enhancing ground station reception,” Proceedings of IAC 2011 (62nd International Astronautical Congress), Cape Town, South Africa, Oct. 3-7, 2011, paper: IAC-11-B2.1.10, URL: http://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=argos%3A%20hyper%20amplification%20manifold%20for%20enhancing%20ground
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates.