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EIAST and AUS launch UAE’s first CubeSat Mission

Engineering students from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) will be building and launching the UAE’s first CubeSat into space as part of their senior design project.

A CubeSat is a nanosatellite with a standardised and simplified cubic design. It has an average dimension of 10 cubic centimetres and weighs around 1kg. The student-built CubeSat, named Nayif-1, is scheduled to be launched from Florida on-board a Falcon-9 rocket by the end of 2015.

The CubeSat mission is a partnership between AUS, the Innovative Solutions in Space company and the Emirates Institute for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST). The mission aims at offering Emirati students from various engineering disciplines hands-on experience at designing, testing and operating a communications satellite.

“Nayif-1 is an amateur radio satellite. It will be the first satellite from the UAE to be launched into an elliptical orbit,” Ebrahim Hamza Al Qasimi, acting manager of the Knowledge Management And Strategic Research Section at EIAST, said, “Seven Emirati students from mechanical, electrical and computer engineering disciplines have been assigned to the project. They will build and operate this satellite as part of their senior design project at university.”

The nanosatellite produces a communication footprint ranging from 5,000-5,500km and can orbit at a height between 450km and 720km for up to three years. A ground station will be built at AUS and operated by engineering students, who will be responsible for mission planning and operations.

“We decided to name the CubeSat Nayif-1,” Al Qasimi said. “The name is derived from the Arabic noun, meaning ‘one that soars high above’ or ‘one that is morally and intellectually superior’. EIAST will take the role of the integrator in the process. Its objective is to put in place all the necessary infrastructure at the university for the CubeSat programme.”

The CubeSat project will be carried out in collaboration with Innovative Solutions in Space, one of the leading companies worldwide in the development of space components and nanosatellite systems.

“The company is already working closely with our students,” Professor Leland Blank, Dean of the College of Engineering at AUS, said. “The purpose of this project is to promote interdisciplinary work among our students, and to give them the practical approach of a real-world working environment. This project is a seminal one, as it will provide the infrastructure for future students to partake in such sophisticated communications projects.”

Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, Director-General of EIAST, said that “the programme will aid in establishing the necessary infrastructure at the university to enable an ongoing univeristy satellite programme, preparing undergraduate and, later on, postgraduate students to enter the UAE’s space technology industry with firm practical knowledge in all disciplines of satellite systems engineering.”