The Japanese PROITERES satellite was successively launched last week, and reports from amature radio operators from all over the globe have confirmed it’s in the intended orbit and operating normally.
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PROITERES, which (somewhat awkwardly) stands for the “PRoject of OIT Electric-Rocket-Engine Onboard Small Space Ship”, is a very unique spacecraft designed and built by students of the Osaka Institute of Technology. Its primary goal is to test the Pulsed Plasma Thruster (PPT), an electric propulsion system designed to be used on small craft such as satellites. By using electrical energy (produced by solar panels) and a very small amount of solid fuel, the PPT is able to produce enough thrust for orbital maneuvering without having to carry heavy and dangerous liquid or gaseous fuels into orbit. This means lighter, cheaper, and more reliable satellites, which is a goal that the whole space industry is working on.
Aside from its revolutionary engine, the PROITERES is carrying another interesting payload: two Linux computers and an internal Ethernet network.
The two Linux computers are charged with mission critical tasks such as communicating with the ground station, taking images, reading the status of the spacecraft’s various sensors, and have direct control over the PPT. It’s safe to say that these two Linux machines are the heart and soul of the PROITERES craft: a considerable vote of confidence.
Ears to the Sky
The team at OIT decided to use the amateur radio bands to communicate with the PROITERES, and asked that properly equipped individuals keep an ear out for their project to help track it and verify proper operation:
When operating our satellite, we will ask radio amateurs, related private organizations such as the Japan Amateur Radio League, Inc. (JARL), the Japan Amateur Satellite Association Board (JAMSAT), and specialized magazines for ham radio to participate in our project. We will continually update information about our project on our website.
If you’re an amateur radio enthusiast, dial your rig onto PROITERES’s frequency of 437.485 MHz, and see if you can’t hear a couple of penguins whizzing around up in the black.