AeroCube 6 Launches Aboard Russian Rocket

AeroCube 6 comprises two half-unit CubeSat satellites. (Illustration: Jason Perez/The Aerospace Corporation)

AeroCube 6, consisting of two .5U CubeSats, was launched from Yasny Launch Base in Russia, aboard a Dnepr rocket on Thursday, June 19. The CubeSats, each measuring about 4 inches by 4 inches by 2 inches, were stored within the UniSat-6 satellite and deployed the following afternoon, Friday, June 20.

Both satellites are communicating effectively, which indicates that they successfully separated from one another after deployment. The rocket’s payload contained 37 satellites, the largest quantity of individual satellites ever launched on a single rocket.

The AeroCube 6 introduces a number of system upgrades, including a continuously operated, spin-stabilized attitude control system as well as the space-saving consolidation of the spacecraft’s master flight computer, GPS system, and radio onto a single circuit board. The CubeSats are equipped with a suite of miniaturized radiation dosimeters that will take identical measurements of the radiation environment as the spacecraft travel in low Earth orbit.

Since the two satellites will measure the same radiation fields within only a few minutes – or seconds – of each other, Aerospace scientists will be able to gather significant information about time-related radiation variations in LEO. A secondary payload of novel solar cells will also be characterized while AeroCube 6 is on-orbit.

AeroCube 6 first passed over an Aerospace ground station at 8:52 PT on June 20. Initial data indicates that both vehicles are healthy and operating as expected.

—Matthew Kivel