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Successful launch for EyeSat, the pocket Milky Way observer

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EyeSat, the university nanosatellite, was placed in orbit by Arianespace on December 18, 2019, carried by the Soyuz (VC23) rocket launched from the Guiana Space Center. Students and engineers from ISAE-SUPAERO took part in the design, development and validation of this satellite’s flight software, in cooperation with CNES.

EyeSat’s mission is to keep an eye on interplanetary dust. Weighing 4 kg, this triple CubeSat (3U) carries a little IRiS space telescope. This astronomy mission for studying zodiacal light and the Milky Way has three major scientific goals.

It will observe zodiacal light in the visible range, in polarized and non-polarized light, to produce a deep, comprehensive 360° color image of the Milky Way. It has new, embedded miniaturized in-flight technologies from the work by Research and Technology (R&T) at CNES for technological demonstrations. And lastly, it will contribute to the students’ training in the space engineering professions.

ISAE-SUPAERO engineers involved in the EyeSat program

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EyeSat is the pilot project for the JANUS program (Jeunes en Apprentissage pour la réalisation de Nanosatellites au sein de Universités et des écoles d’enseignement Supérieur). This program gives students the opportunity to develop and send CubeSats into space – satellites weighing a few kilograms and measuring a few U (cubic volume of 1 dm3). While the principal objective is to provide training in the space professions, these student nanosatellites carry out real scientific missions and scientific demonstrations. More than 250 students have participated in the project, including a large number of ISAE-SUPAERO interns.

Guillaume Crooks and Grégor Vindry are among them. Recipients of the Mayoux Dauriac Award and 2019 ISAE-SUPAERO graduates, they spent two years working on EyeSat. They took part in the design, development and validation of the EyeSat flight software. This software is the core of the satellite. It steers the various embedded instruments by ensuring altitude control and temperature regulation. It collects the various kinds of data that can be observed on board and communicates with the ground segment. These two students were also able to participate in the various stages of the satellite’s assembly, integration and testing, such as the thermal vacuum tests during which the software was used.

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EyeSat telemetry screen

All the experience acquired at CNES through the EyeSat project is being transmitted to the universities and schools involved in the JANUS program to carry out their own student CubeSat projects. It is also a real generator of entrepreneurial talent, leading to the birth of many start-ups, including U-SPACE. This young company, founded by Fabien Apper (ISAE-SUPAERO), Antoine Ressouche (ENAC) and Nicolas Hulmeau (École des Mines de Nantes) and specialized in design and project management for nanosatellite projects, works with public organizations as well as with private operators.

EyeSat piloted by the Toulouse University Space Center (CSUT) and U-Space

The three founders of U-Space worked on EyeSat for 5 years as research engineers at ISAE-SUPAERO, acquiring comprehensive expertise on space systems. These associates have since remained involved in this nanosatellite project, considered one of the most high-performance nanosatellites in the world. CNES has granted them marketing rights over EyeSat technologies.

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EyeSat’s control center

ISAE-SUPAERO is also in charge of developing operations and of the control center located on the campus at the Department of Aerospace Vehicles Design and Control (DCAS). All operations will be piloted by the start-up, U-Space, using the CubeSat flight software which will transmit all the data to the CSUT. EyeSat is beginning its observation of the cosmos for one Earth year, but has already inspired vocations in the field of space engineering.

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