On Dec 13, the Ecuadorian Air Force – FAE, the Ecaudorian Civilian Space Agency – EXA and the Netherlands company ISIS signed the contract and agreements needed to launch into orbit the first Ecuadorian satellite, the NEE-01 PEGASUS, on board a Russian Dnepr RS20 launch vehicle operated by KOSMOTRAS from the Yasny cosmodrome on October 2012.
The NEE-01 PEGASUS was built by the EXA and presented to the public on April 4, 2011, the satellite has a mass of 1.2kg and it is 75cm long, it was completely designed and built in the country with national personnel and equipment and it will perform several missions in the technical and scientific fields as well as an educational role, all this missions will serve the national technological development in the aerospace field.
The satellite carries many advanced technologies which by themselves are firsts for this kind of spacecrafts: It will become the first nanosatellite able to transmit live video from space, is the first of its kind in being equipped with a multilayer shield composed by polymers and alloys that allows the spacecraft to withstand solar flares and other space hazards, it is the first to have a thermal stabilization system based in carbon nanotubes, it has the world’s most thin solar panels, measuring only 1.5 millimeters thick, made of 99.98% pure titanium and it’s the first in its class to have multiple deployable solar panels, also it has the biggest power matrix ever carried by a 1U cubesat with 28.8 amperes of total installed capacity in a volume of only 200 cubic centimeters.
The satellite’s primary mission is to test the basic and key technologies that will allow the EXA and FAE to build bigger and more powerful spacecrafts in the future and the secondary mission is to serve as an space platform for elementary education: The satellite will send two signals that will be received and decoded by the EXA’s HERMES-A ground station in Guayaquil and then uploaded live to the Internet using Twitter and Facebook; the first signal will contain text book questions and the second will contain an image related to the question. If the students are able to answer the question correctly they will be granted access to the video camera onboard the spacecraft and will be able to see earth from space as the astronauts see it in their space missions. More advanced students will have access to the pure radio signal so they can try decoding it by themselves. The EXA will provide them with the appropriate support software free of charge. Also, the satellite will observe the Antartic continent in infrared wavelenghts in real time, being capable to transmit its images directly to the Pedro Vicente Maldonado base located in the white continent.