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TUM student satellite transmits to the new Department of Aerospace and Geodesy

Just one year after having been founded, the Department of Aerospace and Geodesy (LRG) of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) establishes radio contact with space. In cooperation with Airbus and the Ludwig Boelkow Campus, the department installed a system for receiving small satellites at the Taufkirchen/Ottobrunn site. With great success: The ground station, known as "LRG Ground Station", already receives data several times a day from the student satellites MOVE-II and MOVE-IIb, both developed at the Chair of Astronautics, as well as from numerous spacecraft from all over the world.

High on the roof of Airbus, the eye-catching, egg-shaped "Eggbeater" antenna provides particularly good reception deep into the horizon. (Image: TUM)

The international and interdisciplinary student team in May 2019 at a last group photo before the delivery of the pre-packaged satellite to the rocket launch. (Image: TUM)

Received data from NOAA 18, a satellite of the American Ocean and Atmosphere Agency, provided clear images of the summer thunderstorm situation over Europe in mid-August. (Graphic: SatNOGS, CC BY-SA, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)


The youngest department of TUM shows how well the cooperation with the local industry can work at the location in Taufkirchen/Ottobrunn and creates important infrastructure for university space missions. Ulrich Walter, professor of Astronautics, is delighted about the new opportunities: "The aim of the new department is to provide our students with a practical education. At MOVE, they learn to apply their theoretical knowledge in order to build and operate real satellites in a team".

From the received data, the student developers of the university's small satellite MOVE-II gain important insights into the state of the satellite and thus find out whether and how well the technologies they have developed work in space. For the time being, the "Mission Operators", who work in shifts, right now mostly from the home office, are satisfied with the figures: The Linux-based operating system continues to function as expected, and the electronics inside the cube, which is about 10x10x10 centimeters in size, are pleasantly warm at about ten degrees Celsius, while minus degrees are measured on the outside. As expected, the battery is empty at eight percent charge after the electromagnet-based storage system was activated by command to reduce the satellite's rotational speed. During the next circumnavigations of the earth, the solar cells first have to recharge the battery.

The new ground station also receives freely available signals from satellites around the world, e.g. weather images from the American Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the radio of the International Space Station (ISS). This is made possible as part of the international ground station network SatNOGS of the Libre Space Foundation. The idea behind it is simple: if you operate your own ground station and make it available to the network, you can use other ground stations for reception yourself. All received data is published under a Creative Commons license and can be used freely. The received data of the new LRG Ground Station can of course also be viewed publicly at https://network.satnogs.org/stations/378/, overflights can be booked for signals in the VHF band between 135 MHz and 153 MHz.

The station was installed on a high roof of the Airbus building currently used by department in Willy-Messerschmitt-Strasse. From the main entrance of the site in northern direction, the antenna, which is called "Eggbeater" because of its egg-shaped form, quickly catches the eye. Its special shape and high position allow reception just above the horizon, so that passing satellites can be observed for a particularly long time. Small satellites such as MOVE-II are thus visible about six times a day for up to twelve minutes at a favourable flight path.

For the new department, this means: After the project, is before the project. The ground station is one of many further steps towards the vision of comprehensive practical training in cooperation with partners from industry. "There is a lot to do, but we are looking forward to it," Prof. Walter sums up .

Background

The student satellite project MOVE

MOVE (Munich Orbital Verification Experiment) is an interdisciplinary project for students of different disciplines at the Technical University of Munich and part of the scientific working group for space flight and rocketry (WARR). The common goal is to develop and operate satellites with novel technologies and own innovative ideas.

MOVE-II and its sister satellite MOVE-IIb are 10x10x11 cm cubesats which aim at verifying solar cells under space conditions. The satellites, developed by more than 100 bachelor and master students, were successfully launched in December 2018 and July 2019. To date, they are still controlled from the university's own ground station, regularly transmitting data from orbit. Numerous technical details on the initial results of the mission were published freely available at the Small Satellite Conference: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/smallsat/2019/all2019/49/

Since April 2020, MOVE is an official training project of the new Department of Aerospace and Geodesy. Currently, the students are developing their third satellite MOVE-III with a very special sensor, which will revolutionize the knowledge about space debris.

The team currently consists of 47 active students of electrical engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering and geodesy. In addition, three doctoral students are working full-time on the development of the new satellite.

The Department of Aerospace and Geodesy

The Department of Aerospace and Geodesy (LRG) was founded in 2018 as the 15th department of the Technical University of Munich. From novel aircraft and transport systems to communication and satellite technology to observing and mapping our planet with unprecedented precision: Aerospace and geodesy have jointly started their "mission earth". With its currently 21 professorships and chairs, the department is already playing in the Champions League of research: In the Shanghai Subject Ranking , it ranks 8th in geodesy/remote sensing and 16th in aerospace worldwide – making the LRG the undisputed number one in Germany. Through professional reinforcements as well as extensive investments at the new locations in Taufkirchen/Ottobrunn and Oberpfaffenhofen, this position will be further strengthened in the years to come and will make the LRG the largest department of its kind in Europe.