Space News and Facts Newsletter #57
June 12, 2022 - June 18, 2022
Articles in this issue of SN&F …
1) The University of Toronto's Institute for Aerospace Studies subsidiary, the "Space Flight Laboratory" (SFL), successfully uses a drag sail to deorbit a satellite.
2) All about the National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab). Also details about the forest fire threatening the Kitt Peak National Observatory.
The University of Toronto's Institute for Aerospace Studies has a business subsidiary called the "Space Flight Laboratory" (SFL). It's been around since 1998 building microsatellites and nanosatellites for various businesses and governments around the world. SFL handles the entire lifecycle of satellites: it designs, builds, arranges launches, and provides ground monitoring facilities.
Some of its customers include Austria, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Not surprisingly, though, its biggest customer is the Canadian Government. SFL's first major launch was placing the Canadian "Microvariability and Oscillation of Stars" telescope (MOST) into orbit on June 30, 2003.
MOST is not operational as of October 2019, but it is still up there. Among the literally thousands of decommissioned satellites and bits and pieces of rockets littering LEO, this brings us to what is of interest: SFL has just achieved a proof-of-concept demonstration of drag sail technology to deorbit satellites.
On June 13, 2022, SFL revealed they had successfully used a drag sail to deorbit the CanX-7 satellite. CanX-7 was launched on September 26, 2016. CanX-7 stands for "Canadian Advanced Nanospace eXperiment-7". The experiment itself was to test the drag sails.
The drag sails were deployed on May 4, 2017, So, it took 5 years to drag the thing down! That may sound inefficient, but here's the point: had drag sail technology not been used, CanX-7 would be up there for another 178 years!
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What is the National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab)?
NOIRLab operates several ground-based, optical and infrared observatories. It is sponsored by the US National Science Foundation (NSF).
NOIRLab's management and administration are actually conducted through the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA). It is AURA that operates NOIRLAb's five physical facilities. Those observatories are ...