ESTCube Satellite in Space
ESTCube-1 is the first Estonian satellite and it was built in Estonia by students from Tartu University, Estonian Aviation Academy, Tallinn University of Technology and University of Life Sciences. The project started in 2008 and is now ready for launch. The satellite has been launched on May 7th, 2013. The satellite's payload has been developed in conjunction with Finnish Meteorological Institute and German Space Center (DLR).
The main mission of the satellite is to test the electric solar wind sail, a novel space propulsion technology that could revolutionize transportation within the solar system. As Estonia's first satellite, the project will also be used to build Estonian infrastructure for future space projects and to educate space engineers.
The satellite is a cubesat measuring 10 x 10 x 10 cm and weighing 1.05 kg.
Questions to Paul Liias, TUT student:
1) What have been your tasks in relation to ESTCube?
There have been many different task throughout the ESTCube construction My main duties as a product developer have been the development, construction and testing of the ESTCube body and mechanisms. Over a period of five years, we tried out the entire product development cycle with ESTCube. In addition to the satellite components, we had to design all the elements necessary for the production and testing of the components. In the course of the project I also had to deal with complex documentation necessary for obtaining a permit for the satellite to launch with the launcher VEGA.
In addition to technical duties, I had other interesting roles to perform, such as communication with the media, organisation of events, etc.
2) Why are you participating in the project?
There are many reasons for taking part in the ESTCube project. Actually I have been interested in aviation since I was a child. When the sudden opportunity to build a satellite emerged, I joined immediately. In the ESTCube development process it was possible to think big within one litre and apply the solutions we created in practice. Each CubeSat is different from others and new engineering tasks need to be solved every time. Therefore, copying an existing solution is normally impossible – you have to come up with your own solutions, which is what made this project interesting for me.
Besides, who would not want to launch their own satellite into the Earth’s orbit!
3) What skills and knowledge that you learned at TUT have you used in the process? Which new skills have you learned?
In principle, I can say that nearly everything I learned during my Bachelor’s studies at TUT was useful for building the satellite. In some aspects it was surprising even for me since often when you study it seems that what you learn will never be put to use in practice. The best example I can give is technical drawings – a subject where we had to do all the drawings manually. At the time it seemed silly as all drawings are made on computers these days. But in reality the skill of manually drawing plans was very useful. Even during my practical training in the German Aerospace Center I had to draw a number of plans manually. Naturally, we had to work hard and do a lot of additional reading and learning.
What I learned in the course of the project is mainly what can only be learned through a practical experience. For me, it was very interesting to make technical drawings and communicate with manufacturing companies both in Estonia and Germany. During the development process I dealt with different materials and processing processes.
But what I value above all is the experience of carrying out a project and teamwork in the framework of an international project. There were many bodies that were part of the ESTCube project and they were scattered all over Europe. Such an experience will definitely help me avoid mistakes in similar situations or find better solutions to problems in the future.