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First colour image for joint UK and Algerian CubeSat

AlSat Nano, a UK-Algeria CubeSat mission, has captured its first full colour image following its launch in September 2016.

The image was taken by the Open University C3D2 instrument’s wide field camera on 3rd December, 2016, over the Arkhangelsk Oblast region, on the North West coast of Russia. It was captured under twilight conditions at dawn, showing the coastline to the top, and a brief winter sunrise over the arctic region with a deep red-brown hue.

Through the cloud cover there is evidence of hills and snow on mountains, and mist in the river valleys. The object in the foreground is the Oxford Space Systems Ltd AstroTubeTM Boom payload, also carried on board the spacecraft.

This marks an important milestone for the mission as all core payloads have now been commissioned successfully, paving the way for further scientific and commercial exploitation.

Dr Chris Castelli, UK Space Agency Director of Programmes said: “Successfully delivering this joint UK-Algeria mission from payload selection to launch readiness in 18 months is a great achievement from all programme partners. As this latest image demonstrates, mission operations are going from strength to strength, validating cutting edge UK space technology and our open approach to working with international partners.”

AlSat Nano is Algeria’s first CubeSat mission and shows the capability of UK technology in partnership with industry and academia. With a spacecraft the size of a shoebox yet featuring all the core subsystems of much larger satellites, the programme demonstrates how CubeSats can be assembled quickly and launched at a fraction of the cost. This will help Algeria strengthen its domestic space technology capability by giving their scientists and engineers first-hand experience of spacecraft operations.

Dr Abdewahab Chikouche, Director of Space Programmes at Algerian Space Agency, said: “The Alsat-1N project is a concrete example of the success of our cooperation with UKSA. This project, very enriching from the scientific and technological point of view, allowed ASAL engineers to progress in the integration and testing of nanosatellites and acquire autonomy in its operation. This project will enable Algerian researchers and academics to strengthen national capabilities in advanced space technology.”

Approximately half of the spacecraft’s volume was made available as part of an open call to the UK CubeSat community as a free flight opportunity for self-funded payloads. AlSat Nano stuck to a tight development schedule, with less than 18 months between payload selection and flight readiness.

Prof Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of Surrey Space Centre said: “AlSat Nano has been an exciting project for the Surrey Space Centre to be leading. Educational and research elements, and the technology knowledge transfer with the Algerian Space Agency were key parts of this project. Additionally, the development of this nanosatellite platform has been a great opportunity to work with UK payload providers, who are demonstrating some exciting new technologies.”

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