An Account of the World's First CubeSat

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Event details

Date and time 16.03.2020 14:0015:00  
Place and room
Speaker Prof. Shinichi Nakasuka
Category Conferences - Seminars
Including an overview on the micro/nano/pico-satellite activities in the University of Tokyo

In June 2003, two Japanese universities, University of Tokyo and Tokyo Institute of Technology successfully launched the world’s first CubeSats “XI-IV” and “CUTE-1”, using a Russian rocket together with four other universities’ CubeSats. That was the icebreaking event as to micro/nano/pico-satellite development activities in Japan and in the world.  Triggered by the success of XI-IV and CUTE-1, many universities in Japan started their own satellite projects, mostly for educational objectives, and 37 Japanese university satellites have been launched till now.
University of Tokyo already developed 14 satellites, and 11 of them were launched and operated successfully in orbit.  Two CubeSats namely “XI-IV (2003)” and “XI-V (2005)” were primarily for space engineering education, but from the third satellite mission, “PRISM”, we have been challenging towards more practical applications such as remote sensing.  Our fourth satellite “Nano-JASMINE,” which is now waiting for launch, has an “Astrometry” mission to obtain very precise 3D map of large number of stars in space. From 2010, I organized nationwide micro-satellite project named “Hodoyoshi Project,” through which, three Earth remote sensing satellites “Hodoyoshi-1,3,4” were launched in 2014 by Russian Dnepr, which showed excellent performance of taking Earth pictures of 6m, 40m and 240m ground resolutions, with which we are now seeking practical applications for agriculture, forestry, fishery, disaster monitoring, etc.  Based on the bus technologies developed in Hodoyoshi Project, in December 2014, we launched the world’s first 50kg- class deep space probe “PROCYON,” which escaped from the Earth gravitational field and various observation and experiments were conducted successfully in deep space.  Based on the obtained technologies, we have been conducting and will soon finish development of 6U CubeSat “EQUULEUS” targeting towards Earth Lunar Lagrange Point 2, which will be launched by NASA’s SLS rocket in 2020-2021. Two 3U CubeSat were also launched in 2018 and 2019, for “IoT” mission to collect very weak signals from the ground.  One of them also has an objective to support Rwanda on space capacity building, too.
In this way, University of Tokyo has been stepping up from education to practical applications of micro/nano/ pico-satellites, and plans to extend their applications to wider areas.  In my talk, I will show this history, some technical details and discuss future possibilities of micro/nano/pico-satellites. The merits of micro/nano/pico-satellites will also be described including suitable missions for such satellites.

Prof. Nakasuka graduated from University of Tokyo in 1983 and got Ph.D in 1988.  He joined IBM Research during 1988-1990, and then worked for Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, University of Tokyo as a lecturer in 1990, as an Associate Professor in 1993, and became a Professor in 2004.  His major research areas include guidance, navigation and control of spacecraft, applications of artificial intelligence to space systems, and novel space systems. He developed and launched the world first 1kg CubeSat in 2003, and since then successfully launched eleven micro/nano/pico-satellites.  He lead the governmentally funded “Hodoyoshi Project” during 2010-2014 to establish an infrastructure of developing and utilizing micro-satellites, and because of its excellent outcomes, he received “Prime Minister Award” in the 3rd Space Development and Utilization Award coordinated by Cabinet Office of Japan.  He is a member of JSASS, SICE, and IAA, and the former Chairperson of IFAC Aerospace Technical Committee and current president of UNISEC-GLOBAL.  He has been a member of Space Policy Committee of Cabinet Office since 2012, and played the central role to establish the current basic plan of Japanese space policy issued in January 2015.