|Operator||The Aerospace Corporation|
|Spacecraft type||CubeSat (1U)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||19 May 2009, 23:55UTC|
|Launch site||MARS LP-0B|
AeroCube 3 is a single-unit CubeSat which was built and is being operated by The Aerospace Corporation. It is the third AeroCube satellite, following on from AeroCube 1, which was lost in a launch failure in 2006, and AeroCube 2 which was successfully launched in 2007 but failed immediately after launch. Compared to its predecessors it contains several improvements in its infrastructure, including a redesigned power system, replacing the older system which was responsible for the loss of AeroCube 2. Its development was funded by the United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.
AeroCube 3 carried technology development experiments. The primary systems demonstrated were a two-axis solar tracker and an Earth tracker, which could be used in the guidance systems of future satellites. It also carried a 0.6-metre (2 ft 0 in) balloon used for tracking tests and to increase drag, increasing the satellite's rate of orbital decay after its mission was completed.
After launch, AeroCube-3 will remain attached to the upper stage of its carrier rocket by means of a 61-metre (200 ft) tether. Experiments will be conducted to determine the satellite's flight dynamics. A wide-angle camera will be used to image the upper stage. The satellite will also reel in the tether, moving closer to the upper stage.
Once the tethered experiments are complete, the tether will be cut, and the spacecraft will begin free-flying experiments. It will align itself with the Earth's magnetic field by means of magnets and hysteresis systems. It carries a number of sensors which will be used to record information pertaining to the surface of the Earth, which will be returned using a store and dump communications system.
It was successfully launched on an Orbital Sciences Corporation Minotaur I rocket from Pad 0B at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, at 23:55 GMT on 19 May. It was a tertiary payload, with TacSat-3 as the primary payload and PharmaSat as the secondary. Two other CubeSats, HawkSat I and CP-6, were also launched, and together the three satellites were known as the CubeSat Technology Demonstration mission.
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