This 5th of December at 6:29 p.m. (GTM+1 Brussels, Qarman, the nano-satellite designed and built at VKI, has been successfully launched from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station. It will reach the ISS on Sunday. Next Step! The deployment into orbit at the beginning of 2020! This nano-satellite can be defined as an atmospheric entry experiment on a CubeSat platform.
Watch the replay of the launch: SpaceX 19th Resupply Launch to the International Space Station
QARMAN (Qubesat for Aerothermodynamic Research and Measurements on AblatioN) is the world’s first CubeSat designed to survive atmospheric re-entry. The QARMAN project, funded by the European Space Agency, started in 2013 at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI).
The aim of the QARMAN mission is to demonstrate the usability of a CubeSat platform as an atmospheric entry vehicle. Spacecraft descending towards a planet with an atmosphere experience very harsh environment including extreme temperatures (several thousand degrees). Such vehicles have special shields to survive these harsh conditions as will QARMAN. After the success of the mission, different entry vehicle configurations (for example using different thermal protection materials) can be tested on board at very low costs for scientific exploration and qualification of future missions in order to provide valuable real flight data. In the long-term, QARMAN successors could also be used as Blackbox to study how materials and satellites degrades when re-entering the atmosphere, in order to reduce the debris falling back on Earth.
QARMAN will lifted-off from Cape Canaveral on 5th of December, on-board a Cygnus spacecraft heading for the International Space Station. A few weeks after reaching the ISS, QARMAN will be deployed into Space and start its mission. All operations will be performed from the VKI ground station. The first weeks will be dedicated to commissioning the subsystems and verifying the good health of QARMAN. Solar panels will then be deployed to increase the drag, thus decelerate QARMAN and initiate its re-entry. After a few months in orbit, the beginning of the re-entry phase will be automatically detected by QARMAN, triggering the data acquisition. Maximum 18 minutes later, the reentry phase is over and data are communicated through Iridium before the final crash of QARMAN. The satellite will not be recovered, but no worries: the casualty risk has been carefully assessed and demonstrated to comply with all international regulations!