OffBeat

The International Space Station can now launch satellites into space

The International Space Station (ISS) was recently the jumping-off place for a group of satellites, thanks to the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Normally, satellites launch from Earth, with each one requiring a lift from a dedicated launch vehicle. Launching directly from the ISS means reduced costs. Plus, it’s cooler.

The recent launch from the ISS involved five CubeSats, a type of satellite developed in 1999 by Cal Poly scientists. Each one is just four cubic inches and weighs less than three pounds. CubeSats generate their own power via solar panels and can transmit signals. For example, the newly launched CubeSats will be taking pictures of Earth, sending Morse code messages via super-bright LEDs, logging maritime traffic, and monitoring forest fires. All the CubeSats are now successfully in orbit, NASA reports.

The first-ever ISS satellite launch was commanded by JAXA astronaut Aki Hoshide. The CubeSats arrived at the ISS earlier this summer aboard a transport vehicle; all but one were designed by students. Below, Hoshide sits next to the soon-to-be-deployed satellites:

cubesat iss

NASA, JAXA, and others involved in the effort hope the CubeSats will be highly educational, both in the data they’re sending back to Earth-bound students and in the ability they have to inspire young engineers to think about designing new products and devices for space.

Here’s a video clip of the launch:

All images courtesy of NASA/JPL

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