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Qarman CubeSat: Falling Into a Fireball

12 Feb 2020, 10:56 UTC
Qarman CubeSat: Falling Into a Fireball
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ESA’s next CubeSat mission seen enduring the scorching heat of simulated atmospheric reentry inside the world’s largest plasma wind tunnel. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s latest mission will enter the vacuum of space, not aboard a rocket but by being released from the International Space Station. The first task of the shoebox-sized Qarman CubeSat is simply to fall. While typical space missions resist orbital decay, Qarman will drift down month by month until it reenters the atmosphere, at which point it will gather a wealth of data on the fiery physics of reentry.

Technically ESA’s ‘QubeSat for Aerothermodynamic Research and Measurements on Ablation’, Qarman, achieved orbit on 5 December, flying as cargo on SpaceX’s Dragon capsule to the ISS. The nanosatellite is a CubeSat made up of standardised 10-cm boxes: at just 30 cm in length it easily fitted aboard, stowed within the commercial Nanoracks CubeSat Deployment System.

Qarman with side panels deployed. (Credit: VKI)

But on Feb. 17 comes the ambitious mini-mission’s next giant leap. Astronaut Andrew ‘Drew’ Morgan will take the Nanoracks deployer and place it thorough the airlock of Japan’s Kibo module. From here the module’s robotic arm – the Japanese Experimental Module Remote Manipulator ...

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