The Flying Laptop is likely to be a metaphor for a fantastic 21st century education.
From the University of Stuttgart Institute of Space Systems fact sheet Academic Small Satellite Flying Laptop:
Mission Objectives: The development of the Flying Laptop has been conducted by students in the frame of Ph.D., diploma, master, bachelor, and study theses, and internships. The project is used to improve teaching quality by providing hands-on project experience.
From Research-in-Germany.org's article The small satellites 'TechnoSat' and 'Flying Laptop' are successfully launched into space:
Flying Laptop – a small satellite as a training and test mission
"The 'Flying Laptop' project offers both undergraduate and doctoral students a fantastic opportunity to put learned theory into practice and gain project experience in a real space mission. So far, more than 150 student dissertations and over 20 doctoral papers have been written in connection with this project," reports Sabine Klinkner, project manager at the University of Stuttgart. The 110-kilogram ‘Flying Laptop’ small satellite was developed and constructed by post-graduate and undergraduate students at the university's Institute of Space Systems. The necessary infrastructure for the construction, qualification and operation of small satellites in general was also created as part of the development of the satellite. In addition to a large clean room for the integration of satellites, an optics laboratory and a thermal-vacuum chamber, the ground station with a control segment at the University of Stuttgart was also set up and a satellite simulation environment was developed. (emphasis added)
above: Flyling Laptop Satellite from Spaceflight101.
The University of Stuttgart Institute of Space Systems also has a dedicated ground station to manage both the Flying Laptop and TechnoSat spacecraft!
above: From a Flying Laptop tweet.
Specs for the Flying Laptop can be found in Spaceflight 101's article Flying Laptop.
- 120 kg
- 60 x 70 x 90 cm
- tripple-junction GaAs cells with a maximum power generation of 269 Watts. Also included is a test of next generation ultra-thin 100 µm cells.
- Three lithium iron phosphate batteries with a capacity of 35 Amp-hours and a nominal operating voltage of 23.1V
- On Board Computer: Core: UT699 LEON3 with a fault tolerant 32 bit SPARC V8, I/O: radiation-tolerant flash FPGA w/ non-volatile memory, incorporates all digital interfaces to the satellite components, except the payload components, CCSDS TM/TC: similar technical composition as the I/O board, PCDU: reconfigurable Power Control and Distribution Unit.
- Attitude determination: autonomous star tracker, three-axis magnetometer, eight coarse sun sensors, inertial sensors and GPS receivers
- Attitude determination via GPS (not a typo): GENIUS (GPS Enhanced NavIgation system for the University of Stuttgart micro-satellite). GENIUS uses three GPS antennas arranged in L-shape configuration on the central, body-mounted solar array to deliver real time position with ten-meter accuracy, velocity accurate to 0.1m/s and timing with 1µs accuracy. Additionally, the arrangement of the three antennas, spaced at 44 and 61 centimeters, enables an experimental attitude determination algorithm to be run using the phase and Doppler shift of the GPS carrier signal.
- Primary attitude sensor: µASC (micro Advanced Stellar Compass) developed by the University of Denmark comprising a pair of camera heads and a data processing unit and providing a pointing knowledge of 2 arc seconds and supporting slew rates of up to 10 degrees per second for rapid repointing of the platform.
- Magnetometer: Anisotropic-Magneto-Resistive Magnetometer provides magnetic field vector and strength for actuation of the toque rods
- Fiber Optic Gyro: four single-axis optic rate gyros provides body rate data.
- Sun sensors: 6° pointing accuracy in case of a satellite safe mode to ensure proper power generation via solar-pointing of the arrays.
- S-Band communications system: low- and high-gain antennas Command uplink at 2.068 GHz, telemetry downlink at 2.245 GHz, science data downlink at 2.425 GHz - achieves 10Mbps using QPSK modulation.
- Optical HighSpeed Infrared Link System (OSIRIS): laser communications terminal developed by German Aerospace Center for high-data rate downlink for data-intensive payloads on small satellites. OSIRIS comprises two optical transmitter units, each with a laser source, modulators and optical fibers that connect to the collimator units installed on the satellite’s optical bench. One laser source employs a high power laser diode while the other uses an erbium doped fiber amplifier (EDFA). Both operate in the infrared band, at a wavelength of 1550 nanometers and OSIRIS is expected to reach a data rate of 100 Mbit/s. All in all, OSIRIS weighs around 1.5 Kilograms and requires 25 Watts of power during operation.
- Receiver for Automatic Identification System (AIS): Developed at DLR Bremen. AIS is used by sea vessels that send and receive VHF messages containing identification, position, course and speed information to allow the monitoring of vessel movements and collision avoidance as well as alerting in the event of sudden speed changes. Deploying space-based AIS terminals allows a broad coverage and data relay to ground stations for monitoring of large sea areas. However, due to the large footprint of satellites, overlapping and signal collisions become a problem, especially for frequented traffic routes, requiring a steady improvement in reception technology to separate the different signals. The AIS Receiver was a late addition to the Flying Laptop and will be employed in conjunction with the satellite’s cameras to examine the accuracy of the position data transmitted by ships.
- Multispectral Imaging Camera System (MICS): Comprises three single cameras with CCD array detectors for snapshot observation in the visible and near infrared range; 10 x 9 x 10 cm, ~ 4 kg. The three optical systems employ identical double Gauss telescopes with interference filters placed in front to set the wavelength passband. They achieves a 21.5-meter ground resolution across a 22-Kilometer swath with spectral channels of 530-580nm (green), 620-670nm (red) and 820-870nm (near infrared).
- MICS works in close cooperation with the satellite’s attitude control system to establish three different modes of image acquisition. In Inertial Pointing, the star tracker delivers high-precision attitude knowledge and the satellite will remain inertially stabilized for stellar and lunar observations. Nadir Pointing Mode aligns the z-vector of the satellite perpendicular to the Earth’s surface, keeping the cameras pointing directly downward as the satellite makes its orbit, allowing for Earth imaging. A dedicated Spotlight Mode points the spacecraft at a fixed target on Earth, slewing the satellite to compensate for its orbital motion to keep pointing to the target to achieve the required coverage/resolution of the planned scientific observations. The spotlight mode will be used to capture images of the same target at different observation angles for the measurement of the Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function (BRDF) – a fundamental radiometric parameter that is dependent on the vectors of solar incidence, outgoing reflection and surface normal as well as the properties of the surface itself.