Cosmic radiation may have harmed the onboard computer of Slovakia’s first satellite, the 10x10x10cm skCUBE, the Slovak Organisation for Space Activities (SOSA) said on July 10.
The satellite was launched on a PSLV rocket that took off from Sriharikota, India, on June 23. It orbited the Earth without any significant problems for 15 days, but over the night of July 7 to July 8 it stopped sending all data apart from data packets from the COM communications system.
“Our last connection with the satellite only some hours before indicated all systems were fully functional and there was no sign of any impending problem,” said Jakub Kapus, vice-chair of SOSA, in a press release.
First analyses performed by the skCUBE technical team have pointed to radiation in the cosmos as the likely cause of the difficulty. In an effort at mirroring conditions being experienced by skCUBE, the team is to simulate the launch of a twin satellite in a lab.
The satellite's problems are a blow to Slovakia, which is trying to reinvent itself as a high-tech country, as well as being the biggest car producer in the world per capita. It already has one of the world’s leading flying car companies, is backing plans for a hyperloop system to transport people in a superfast vacuum tube, and is testing autonomous vehicles.
Prior to the technical difficulties, 3,000 data packets were received from the satellite’s onboard systems and sensors. skCUBE’s two main experimental objectives are observing radio signals in space blocked from Earth by the ionosphere, at frequencies from 3 to 30 kHz, and filming activities.
The skCUBE project was founded to design and construct a satellite in Slovakia for the first time in the country’s history.
The satellite is orbiting the Earth at 7.8km per second at an altitude of more than 500km.
After its launch, Slovak President Andrej Kiska declared: "It's a great success for the young people who have contributed towards the fact that we have our first satellite. I'm happy, as I heard that we'll have a first Slovak selfie taken by the Slovak satellite - it'll take a picture of Slovakia from above."
SOSA has launched a website where daily updated data from the satellite can be viewed: data.skcube.sk. There is also a 3D application via which you can track your current location via skCUBE: 3d.skcube.sk.