THE FIRST PHOTO TAKEN BY ESTCUBE-1 IN SPACE has been released today by the ESTCube-1 team

"The hard work of the first two weeks has paid off and the CAM team, leaded by the University of Tartu Computer Technology graduate student Henri Kuuste has this to say: The camera works perfectly and so do all the other subsystems, needed for taking the photo. The first image was captured on May 15 over the Mediterranean Sea, showing the sea, Sahara desert, and Tunisia.
There was a question about the camera resolution: it is standard VGA, 640 by 480 pixels. We could have easily installed higher resolution camera, but we just would not be able to download the images in reasonable time down to the Earth. Read all the details about the camera from Henri's thesis " writes the ESTCUBE-1 team on their FB page this morning.

ESTCube-1, which went into orbit on 7th of May 2013 at 5.06, "will put proton-powered electric solar sails to the test for the first time. Wires with a positive charge will extend from the craft and repel protons – also positively charged – to propel the tiny satellite,"writes Jacob Aron in his column in NewScientist Space  on the 7-th of May.

Aron compares in his article that ESTCube-1 is 10 centimetres wide and has a 10-metre-long wire just half the width of a human hair. It is within the Earth's magnetosphere, so is shielded from the solar wind, but it will still interact with charged particles, says Mart Noorma of Tartu University in Estonia, who helped develop the satellite. Once the wire is fully extended and powered up, the satellite's rotation rate should alter, letting the team measure the thrust generated by the electric sail. If the tests are successful, the hope is that a full-sized craft with 100 wires, each 20 kilometres long, could reach speeds of 30 kilometres per second, fast enough to get to Pluto in under five years.

Smaller sails could act as a brake for retired satellites, slowing them down enough to fall safely back to Earth", writes Aron.

More facts about ESCUBE-1:

To fulfil its mission the satellite must be able to perform many tasks, ranging from communicating with the Earth and producing electrical power to correcting the orbital attitude, taking images with its camera, and for the main mission - unreeling the tether and charging it electrically.

 The satellite consists of:

  • ADCS - attitude determination and control system, determines and modifies satellite's alignment
  • CAM - onboard camera for taking images of the Earth and the unreeled tether
  • CDHS - command and data handling system, the satellite's main onboard computer
  • COM - communications system for up- and downlinks
  • EPS - electrical power system, provides electrical power for the satellite
  • PL - payload, the satellite's experiment module, that contain the tether and everything else related to the experiment
  • STR - satellite's structure
 Ground support:
  • GS - satellite's ground station
  • MCS - mission control system
Read more about Estonians first satellite project from ESTCUBE's homepage