The Illinois Observing Nanosatellite (ION) is the first CubeSat mission developed by the students of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The satellite was lost in the failure of the Dnepr launch on 26 July 2006. Completed in April 2005 as a part of the Illinois Tiny Satellite Initiative, the satellite took almost four years to be designed, built and tested by an interdisciplinary team of student engineers. The payloads included a photometer, a micro-thruster and a camera.
The science and technology objectives of the ION-1 mission were aimed at advancing key enabling technologies for CubeSats:
- Measurement of oxygen intensity in Earth's ionosphere to understand how energy transfers occur across large regions
- Test the MicroVacuum Arc Thruster (µVAT), a versatile small satellite propulsion technology for lateral movement and fine-control of attitude
- Test the SID processor board designed specifically for small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO)
- Test a small CMOS camera for Earth imaging
- Demonstrate attitude stabilization on a CubeSat
Future missions at UIUC
ION-1 was built using the IlliniSat-1 bus. The upgraded IlliniSat-2 bus is now under development for missions such as Lower Atmosphere Ionosphere Coupling Experiment (LAICE) and the CubeSail, both to be launched in 2016.
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