February 16, 2021

EntrySat

Studying atmospheric re-entry
PartnersISAE-SUPAERO – Toulouse University Space Centre (CSUT)
Launch date and base17 April 2019 to the ISS from Wallops Island
Deployment3 July 2019 from the ISS
Orbit400 km
Mission lifetimeAbout 12 months

EntrySat is the first cubesat dedicated to studying atmospheric re-entry of orbital debris. The ISAE-SUPAERO aeronautics and space institute designed the satellite with support from the Nanolab-Academy project and in collaboration with the French aerospace research agency ONERA. Keeping the proliferation of orbital debris under control is an increasingly vital issue, as ultimately it will pose a serious threat to space operations. To this end, we need to learn more about the processes in play when a satellite breaks up on re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

A team of research scientists at ISAE-SUPAERO, supported by ONERA and CNES, designed EntrySat precisely with this aim in mind. The satellite was originally intended to study re-entry of orbital debris using its position, pressure, temperature and heat flux sensors, but the team also planned to perform a range of technology experiments to communicate with the ground and measure the atmosphere’s characteristics.

EntrySat involved all of ISAE-SUPAERO’s departments, including the Structural Mechanics and Materials department that provided the facilities for testing the cubesat. It also benefited from CNES’s expertise and testing support.

EntrySat is the fourth cubesat in the Nanolab-Academy programme and one of the 10 in-orbit demonstrators for the QB50 project. It is also the first French 3U cubesat (10 cm x 10 cm x 30 cm) built for a student project. Since the project got underway in 2014 and during its subsequent phases, more than 90 students helped to develop EntrySat, working with research teams.

EntrySat was tracked and controlled from ISAE-SUPAERO’s ground station in Toulouse, but contact with the satellite was lost 10 days after it was released into orbit. It was to be operated by the control centre at the Toulouse University Space Centre (CSUT) until its scheduled re-entry about a year later. Just before EntrySat’s atmospheric re-entry, readings from its sensors were to be transmitted via the Iridium constellation and then relayed to the CSUT for processing by science teams.

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The EntrySat 3U cubesat before its departure for launch from the United States. Credits: CNES

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Some of the students who took part in the EntrySat project. Credits: ISAE-SUPAERO

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The CSUT control centre in Toulouse. Credits: ISAE-SUPAERO