Duchifat-2 nano-satellite, built by Israeli teenagers. Photo by Roei Greenberg; screen capture Israel 21C

By Viva Sarah Press

A nano-satellite built by Israeli high school students was launched to the International Space Station on April 18. Named for Israel’s national bird, the Duchifat-2 (in English, Hoopoe-2) nano-satellite was one of 28 student-built nano-satellites sent into space, to be released from the space station in about six weeks’ time.

More than 80 Israeli teenagers from around the country – in grades 9-12 – came to Herzliya Science Center to help build the tiny 1.8 kilogram (4-pound) CubeSat satellite, a type of miniaturized satellite for space research.

It is the only QB50 nano-satellite constructed by high school students. The others were developed by college students. Measuring just 20x10x10 centimeters, Duchifat-2 was launched aboard an Atlas V supply rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The mini satellite is part of a larger project run by the European Union’s QB50 thermosphere research program. Teams from 21 countries built the nano-satellites “to perform first-class science in the largely unexplored lower thermosphere.”

One of the goals of the QB50 program is to enable space agencies to pursue on-site measurements in the lower thermosphere, which previously haven’t been done because the cost would be too high. A network of very low-cost CubeSats is hoped to make this possible for the first time.

“Nanosatellites enable space engineering and space research at costs that are affordable for academia. The reduced costs allow academia to assume a much more active role in the field, taking advantage of the innovation and initiative of researchers and students,” Prof. Dan Blumberg, Ben-Gurion University’s VP and Dean for R&D, said in February following the launch of BGUSAT, Israeli academia’s first nanosatellite.

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