Located in the Caribbean Sea, the island of Aruba is well-known for its sandy beaches, year-round sunny weather, and friendly people. What you might not know is that its relatively isolated location off the coast of Venezuela makes it an ideal spot for interference-free radio communication. In fact, amateur radio enthusiasts have set numerous long-distance communication records over the past few decades thanks to Aruba's clear weather, geographic location, and distance from major radio traffic. Now, a team in Aruba is looking to use this advantage to enter the space arena.
In collaboration with the Technical University of Graz, the University of Vienna, and the Polish Academy of Sciences, the University of Toronto's Space Flight Laboratory is designing, developing, and launching a constellation of small satellites in order to study luminous stars in our solar neighborhood. The BRight Target Explorer program, or BRITE, currently has two operational satellites in orbit gathering meaningful science data, and the consortium is planning on adding several satellites to the constellation in the near future. While this addition is crucial to the science team in terms of data gathered, it increases the transmission requirements for the constellation's ground segments. This is where Aruba comes in. A handful of radio amateurs and satellite enthusiasts on the island are working in partnership with a local technical college to build a BRITE-compatible ground station.
This ground station will be Aruba's first space-related project and the first small satellite ground station in the region, which will serve to educate and stimulate Arubans to pursue careers in the field. This project aims to enhance and expand the technical college's curriculum to include the basics of orbital mechanics and telecommunication, subjects which are currently not offered. In return, the BRITE constellation will gain access to an additional ground station outside of their current coverage areas, allowing their science team to collect more data even quicker.
Testing begins this summer, and plans for operating the ground station are set for later in the year. For further information about this project or to find out how you can get involved, inquire here at the CSS.
BRITE Constellation link: http://utias-sfl.net/?page_id=407