In 1999, California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University developed a specification for satellites whose aim was to promote and develop the skills necessary for the design, manufacture, and testing of small satellites intended for low Earth orbit (LEO). The aim was perform scientific research and explore new space technologies.

Satellites within that specification have become known as CubeSats and are miniaturised satellites made up of multiples of 10×10×10 cm (1U) and have a mass of no more than 1.33 kilograms per unit.

In 2009, a team of volunteer experts from AMSAT-UK, in collaboration with colleagues in the Netherlands at AMSAT-NL started work on a new amateur satellite concept –The FUNcube Project.

Final Assembly of FunCube1
Final Assembly of FunCube1

FUNcube-1 (AO73) is a educational 1U CubeSat with the goal of enthusing and educating young people about radio, space, physics and electronics. FunCube1 was launched from Russia on a DNEPR rocket on Nov 21st 2013.

The satellite is in what is known as a Sun-Synchronous Low Earth Orbit approx 630km above the earth. In this orbit FunCube1 passes over most locations approximately 3 times in the morning, and 3 in the evening, every day. This scheduling is designed so that the morning passes to be used for educational purposes and the evening passes for Amateur Radio communications.

The satellite downlink which school students can easily receive and decode, carries telemetry data about the condition of the satellite’s sub-systems such as the solar panels, lectronic systems and battery condition along with temperature results etc from a Material Science Experiment.

After nearly four years in orbit, FunCube1 continues to perform well with more than 1000 stations, including many at schools and colleges around the world, have received and decoded the telemetry.

The satellite payload also includes a transponder, a system for receiving radio signal and automatically re-transmitting them (in this case on a different frequency). Radio Amateurs around the world use the transponder to communicate over much greater distances that would normally be possible at the frequencies and powers in use.

You can fond out a lot more about the FunCube Project by visiting their website (click here).