Students at St Thomas More (STM) Cathedral School in Arlington, Virginia, erupted into cheers and celebration today (May 16) as their STMSat-1 CubeSat finally was deployed from the International Space Station. Equipped with a slow-scan TV (SSTV) payload, STMSat-1 will transmit on the 70 centimeter Amateur Radio band (437.800 MHz). The satellite was the first to be designed and built by grade schoolers, who were supported by NASA technical advisors and by local radio amateurs. It was supposed to begin transmitting 45 minutes after deployment, but it had not been heard after several hours.
Transported to the ISS in December by an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft, the kit-built satellite first had been scheduled for release in mid-February. That deployment was postponed until early March, however, before being put on hold again. The satellite project is part of the school’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education initiatives.
St Thomas More includes students from pre-kindergarten through grade 8. The project aims to engage other schools around the world as “Remote Mission Operation Centers” (RMOCs). NASA’s Technology Demonstration Office provided the school with a mobile “clean room” to ensure that the construction phase met with strict guidelines and standards for launch and deployment from the ISS. The space agency also provided the school with an antenna to receive the SSTV images and temperature readings the satellite sends back.
The SSTV camera onboard STMSat-1 will transmit a Martin-2 image every 30 seconds. It will not transmit a beacon signal, however. The transmitter runs 3 W, and there is no onboard data storage capability. STMSat-1 has an estimated lifetime of at least 9 months.