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AAUSAT3 flight model
Mission type Technology
Operator Aalborg University
COSPAR ID 2013-009B
SATCAT № 39087
Website www.space.aau.dk/aausat3
Mission duration 6 months planned
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft type 1U CubeSat
Manufacturer Aalborg University
Launch mass 1 kilogram (2.2 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date 25 February 2013, 12:31 (2013-02-25UTC12:31Z) UTC[1]
Rocket PSLV-CA C20
Launch site Satish Dhawan FLP
Contractor ISRO
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Perigee 775 kilometres (482 mi)
Apogee 793 kilometres (493 mi)
Inclination 98.62 degrees
Period 100.40 minutes
Epoch 21 November 2013, 01:03:17 UTC[2]

AAUSAT3 is the third CubeSat built and operated by students from Aalborg University in Denmark. It was launched on 25 February 2013 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India on a PSLV rocket (no C20). AAUSAT3 carries two AIS receivers as the main payload.

AAUSAT3 is made solely by students.

The educational objective[edit]

The primary purpose of construction of satellites at Aalborg University is to give the students engineering capabilities beyond what is normally achieved within a masters program. All design, implementation and manufacturing has been carried out by students with two exceptions: Manufacturing of mechanical structure (carried out by department workshop in alu7075) and the raw non-mounted PCBs.

The scientific objective[edit]

To answer the question - Is it possible to receive AIS signals from a 1U cubesat ?


Student satellite activities at Aalborg University (AAU) started in 2003 as a result of AAU's involvement in the first pure Danish research satellite, Ørsted, which was successfully launched in 1999.

AAUSAT3's predecessor was

Students from AAU did also participate in SSETI EXPRESS(launched 2005) - a student satellite initiative from ESA Education,

The construction of AAUSAT3 began in 2007.


8124 AIS messages received in 11 hours on 8. March 2013.

AAUSAT3 was launched 25 February 2013 on PSLV C20. As the time of writing operations has been a very huge success. 9000 AIS messages are received on daily basis and downloaded to the MCC located in Aalborg Denmark. All sub systems has been tested and are running.

The first 100 days of operation has been very successful. No degradation of the satellite has been observed, all sub systems are working and the primary payload - an AIS receiver - is working correctly. The mission will continue until further notice.

Two critical situations has taken place during the first 100 days:

28. February 2013 06:08 the very last beacon for some days was received. During the last 24 hours battery voltage was decreasing and temperature readings did indicate that AAUSAT3 was steady pointing the sixth side without solar cells towards the sun. The last passes over Aalborg it was observed that battery voltage was slowly decreasing.

The situation was discussed and analysed during the day and it was decided to instruct AAUSAT3 on all upcoming passes to switch off beacon mode because it was using power (radio).

No further attempt was taken to gain contact during the weekend because if very slow charging was taken place it should have peace to regain to normal mode. All passes was supervised.

There were total silence until 4. March 17:52 where the ground station in Aalborg did request and did receive a beacon. The beacon did show an up-time of 1 day 19 hours and that everything was working ok and more than 7000 AIS messages received. Everything was went back to normal. The requested beacon did also show a high number of reboots - which we think was due to low battery voltage.

Due to this event AAUSAT3 is now by intention set to tumble very slow - 2 rotations for every orbit (approx 100 minutes) - to avoid a repetition of the situation.

24. May 2013 the power system (EPS) onboard AAUSAT3 rejected to handle multi frame communication packages from ground. During 4 passes (500 minutes) the students did analyze the situation and inspected the C source for the EPS server and a solution was found. One proper crafted package was sent to AAUSAT3 and normal situation for the EPS was re established. During the event the rest of the satellite was - due to the decentralised design - working perfect. The team expect a bit flip to be the case.

During the first 100 days close to 800.000 AIS packages has been received and downloaded.

10-11. Juni 2013 two new SW images for the SDR AIS receiver(AIS2) was uploaded without problems. It takes approx 1.5 path to upload a full AIS receiver.

It has shown real improvement and is now capable to sample and decode in real time. First metrics shows a capacity around 6000 AIS messages/hour in average.

25. February 2014 One year up in space. AAUSAT3 is fully functioning and AIS measurements are done on a regular basis. There has been established a ground station at Thule - Greenland for extended download capacity. Energy production is now stable but rather low stable, so the mission are interleaved with hours or days for charging batteries. New uploaded algorithms now shows reception of approx 8000 messages/hour and real time performance which means that decoding takes less time than sampling and is carried out in parallel. Due to the ground station at Thule it is possible to carry out real time supervision around Greenland: measuring and downloading at same time. So only a few seconds after detection the information is available i Aalborg at our MCC.

The mission continues.

See [1] for more information

Satellite Subsystem Strategy[edit]

AAUSAT3 is based on a non centralized concept with no dedicated master. The idea behind this approach is to achieve a modular satellite which in many cases will be able to function even when certain subsystems fail. For that reason the must-have subsystem (EPS and COM) are by purpose designed simple and very robust whereas subsystems like AIS2 are quite more complex and therefore must be a design of higher complexity and nature then have a higher failure rate.

The power system(EPS) acts as intelligent supervisor and watchdog. AAUSAT3 consists of several sub-systems:

EPS Electronic Power Supply at90can128 8 MHz FreeRTOS 32kB add RAM
COM Communication Module at90can128 16 MHz FreeRTOS 32 kB added RAM ADF702x radio
ADCS1 Attitude Determination and Control 1 at90can128 8 MHz FreeRTOS 32 kB added RAM detumbling
ADCS2 Attitude Determination and Control 2 arm 7 x0 MHz FreeRTOS xx kB added RAM determination and control
AIS1 Automatic Identification System at90can128 8 MHz FreeRTOS 32 kB added RAM ADF702x for AIS receive
AIS2 Automatic Identification System BF537 XXX MHz μClinux ADF702x for AIS receive Receive all channels simultaneously
LOG Onboard logging system FreeRTOS
FP FlightPlanner FreeRTOS

On the ground segment there is:

  • CDH: Command and Datahandling System
  • GND: Ground Station
  • MCC: Mission Control Center

All internal and satellite to groundstation is carried out using CSP protocol which is a spin of AAUSAT3.

Technical Facts[edit]

Dimensions 100 × 100 × 113 mm Cubesat standard
Mass 800 gram
Expected lifetime Minimum 1 month, extended until end of lifetime
Attitude determination system Sun sensors, gyro sensors, magnetometers
Attitude control system Magnetic coils
Power Solar-cell panels located in satellite surface
Batteries Li-ion 8.2V 2200 mAh
Power bus 3.3 and 5V regulated
Antenna COM - UHF tx/rx dipole (be-cu)
Antenna AIS (VHF) dipole (be-cu)

HAM information[edit]

  • Callsign: OZ3CUB
  • Up/downlink: 437.425 MHz
  • Bit rate: 1200-19200 bit/s (default 2400, is operated at 9600, 19200 has been tested positive as well)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McDowell, Jonathan. "Launch Log". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Peat, Chris (21 November 2013). "AAUSAT3 - Orbit". Heavens Above. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 

External links[edit]