25.01.2018 change 25.01.2018

Students of AGH UST and JU are building a satellite; launch into space planned for 2019

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

The launch of a satellite designed by students of AGH UST and JU in Kraków is scheduled for 2019. It will be the world's first satellite to use ferrofluid to control its position, young scientists say.

Students want to test whether ferrofluid can act as a liquid flywheel in space.

Ferrofluid is a liquid with magnetic properties; magnets attract ferrofluid. It was invented in the 1960s by scientists from NASA and designed to attract fuel in a state of weightlessness. Ferrofluid is being studied intensively all over the world, it is widely used in science, but also in art - for example as a material in artistic installations.

The KRAKsat satellite built at AGH UST will use ferrofluid to stabilize the satellite's position relative to the Earth.

"We want to see how ferrofluid behaves in space, we want to check the viability of the idea to use ferrofluid, a liquid magnet, as a flywheel. This could allow us to expand our knowledge about the universe and enable more effective space exploration in the future" - says project coordinator Jan Życzkowski, a student of automation and robotics at AGH UST.

Students also hope that the invention will reduce the costs and increase the reliability of stabilization systems (devices that allow the satellite to turn in any direction) used in space.

According to Życzkowski, KRAKsat will be the world's first satellite to use ferrofluid to stabilize its position relative to the Earth. It will also be the first space satellite built in Kraków and the second in Poland built by students. The student also draws attention to the fact that the satellite is being built exclusively by Poles, because Polish scientists usually build satellites in cooperation with scientists from other countries.

Eight students are involved in the KRAKsat project - six from AGH UST and two from the Jagiellonian University. They work in the AGH University of Science and Technology lab several hours a day, several times a week.

American company Interorbital will launch the satellite into space for 8,000 dollars. "We hope that this will happen in 2019" - says the project coordinator.

The object will be launched into space from California. Its target altitude is 310 km. After launch, it will perform measurements of temperature, magnetic field inductance, light intensity and many more. During this time, it must withstand the extreme conditions prevailing in the ionosphere, such as a large amplitude of temperatures (from -170C to 110C), low pressure, microgravity, ionised gases. After three months of continuous measurements and experiments, the satellite will lose speed and burn in the atmosphere.

In zero gravity in space, students will induce a whirling motion of the ferrofluid in a magnetic field (in the satellite). If the experiment is successful, the liquid in the tank will change its speed and cause the satellite\'s opposite rotation speed to change.

The KRAKsat satellite will have small dimensions, it will resemble a cylinder with a diameter of 10 cm x 13 cm in height. Its mass is only 750 g.

Students need PLN 50,000 to implement the project. They haveobtained PLN 30 thousand from the universities, the AGH foundation and sponsors. They still need PLN 20,000 and to raise this amount they are launching a collection on the crowdfunding platform "Polak potrafi". (PAP)

author: Beata Kołodziej

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