Venta-1, Aalto-1 and LituanicaSAT-2 were launched on the same rocket, PSLV-C38, on June 23.
This was a historical event for Latvia, since Venta-1 is its first satellite in space. Aalto-1 was launched only a few months after the Aalto-2. For Lithuanans it took a bit longer to launch their second nanosatellite LituanicaSAT-2. LituanicaSAT-1 was launched 3 years ago, in 2014. Let's take a closer look at those 3 satellites.
Venta-1 is a 6 Kg satellite, pre-cubesat era, started in 2007. The satellite was built by 4 Ventspils scientists and funded with ‘bits’ of public funding over five years. The total cost of Venta-1 resulted in 300,000 euros with the team working on it on a voluntary basis. The satellite was built in Bremen because Latvia does not have facilities needed for vacuum, thermal, vibration testing etc. Venta-1 carries automatic ship tracking system (SATAIS), and a small onboard camera for low resolution Earth monitoring. The satellite is expected to have a lifetime of at least a couple of years.
Aalto-1 is Aalto University students project, started in 2010. The project was coordinated by Department of Radio Science and Engineering and the team has members from five different departments of Aalto University. Additionally, a consortium of Finnish universities as well as VTT, Finnish Meteorological Institute, and some Finnish and Estonian companies came together to support the satellite project. The launch of the satellite was delayed several times but today Aalto-1 orbits Earth 15 times a day. As a payload it carries small imaging spectrometer, small radiation detector, and a plasma brake for deorbiting the satellite.
LituanicaSAT-2 mission is led by Vilnius University together with Lithuanian nano-spacecraft equipment manufacturer NanoAvionics. LithuanicaSAT-2 is a part of a network of 50 nanosatellites called "QB50" whose mission is to send "primary payload on a low-cost launch vehicle to perform first-class science in the largely unexplored lower thermosphere." LithuanicaSAT-2 will test the innovative propulsion system prototype for small satellites developed by NanoAvionics. The propulsion unit of LituanicaSAT-2 is running on a non-toxic “green” monopropellant based on ammonium dinitramide (ADN) blend is able to perform high impulse orbital maneuvers and compensate drag.
You probably noticed that universities played a major role in all 3 cases. Indeed in the recent year we have seen the number of space events, initiatives and competitions coming from universities. Nordic and Baltic students have enormous opportunities for building space applications like never before. The future seems bright!