19/02: Successful in-orbit deployment of Qarman nano-satellite. First signals received at the VKI ground station!

The VKI nano-satellite Qarman has been successfully deployed in orbit from ISS this Wednesday 19 February 2020.

The team is very happy to report that we received QARMAN signals here at VKI ground station! Parameters are nominal, on-board temperature is 19°C and battery voltage is 8.19 V (nearly fully charged).

Let's watch the recording of the deployment of Qarman from ISS:

Let's watch the reaction of the VKI staff

Qarman, the nano-satellite designed and built at VKI, has been successfully launched from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station on the 5th of December 2019. Watch the replay of the launch: SpaceX 19th Resupply Launch to the International Space Station

QARMAN (Qubesat for Aerothermodynamic Research and Measurements on AblatioN) is the world’s first CubeSat designed to survive atmospheric re-entry. The QARMAN project, funded by the European Space Agency, started in 2013 at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI).

The aim of the QARMAN mission is to demonstrate the usability of a CubeSat platform as an atmospheric entry vehicle. Spacecraft descending towards a planet with an atmosphere experience very harsh environment including extreme temperatures (several thousand degrees). Such vehicles have special shields to survive these harsh conditions as will QARMAN. After the success of the mission, different entry vehicle configurations (for example using different thermal protection materials) can be tested on board at very low costs for scientific exploration and qualification of future missions in order to provide valuable real flight data. In the long-term, QARMAN successors could also be used as Blackbox to study how materials and satellites degrade when re-entering the atmosphere, in order to reduce the debris falling back on Earth.

QARMAN lifted-off from Cape Canaveral on 5th of December, on-board a Falcon 9, with Dragon carrying it to the International Space Station. A few weeks after reaching the ISS, QARMAN will be deployed into Space and start its mission. All operations will be performed from the VKI ground station. The first weeks will be dedicated to commissioning the subsystems and verifying the good health of QARMAN. Solar panels will then be deployed to increase the drag, thus decelerate QARMAN and initiate its re-entry. After a few months in orbit, the beginning of the re-entry phase will be automatically detected by QARMAN, triggering the data acquisition. Maximum 18 minutes later, the reentry phase is over and data are communicated through Iridium before the final crash of QARMAN. The satellite will not be recovered, but no worries: the casualty risk has been carefully assessed and demonstrated to comply with all international regulations!

The VKI engineers in charge of this project have faced many challenges such as communication between QARMAN and the ground or the resistance of different materials. Such an operation would not have been possible without numerous international and Belgian collaborations, notably with Italy for a full-scale validation test in the CIRA plasma wind tunnel "Scirocco", with France for tests of thermal conditions at ISAE SUPAERO and for the development of the spectrometer with ArianeGroup and CentraleSupElec and with V2i in Liège for vibration tests.

Successful ejection of Qarman from ISS
Live Streaming of Qarman
Reaction of VKI staff during the Live Streaming of Qarman
Qarman with Solar panels
Qarman TPS tested in the VKI Plasmatron
Qarman packed in the Nanoracks Payloads