On the afternoon (in Paris) of Tuesday 20 March 2018 PicSat suddenly fell silent, after two successful morning passes over Europe. Attempts to re-establish contact have failed, nothing has been heard from the satellite, no sign of life. There was a short-lived hope that PicSat was heard on Friday 30 March by a team at the Morehead State University, but it radio amateur W2RTV was the first to manage to decode the faint signal and turned out to be another satellite (TIGRISAT). Today, Thursday 5 April 2018, the team decided to call mission-closed. A “pot” (French for party / drink) was organised at noon at the Paris Observatory in Meudon. Sylvestre Lacour did a short speech. Four radio amateurs who have been PicSat fans and great supporters joined in via a dedicated Google Hangout. A short video can be seen here. The team will continue to try to understand what went awry, while plans for new projects are being made. PicSat was operational for over 10 weeks. From a technological point of view it has been a success for the LESIA laboratory of the Paris Observatory – PSL, for whom PicSat has been the very first nano-satellite complete built and opereated in-house. This experience will open doors for new nano-satellite projects in the (near) future.
Yesterday 20 March PicSat has suddenly fallen silent, stopping to emit telemetry data.
The mission has been going really well, in spite of a problem with the Attitude Determination and Control System, the solution of which is well under way. 80 radio amateurs from around the globe have been contributing to the mission by receiving and sending the decoded telemetry to the PicSat Data Base. This has proven extremely useful for the team!
The cause of the sudden silence is not known at this point. The last beacon was received from Brazil by Roland Zurmely, PY4ZBZ, yesterday at 13:17:37UTC. If nothing happens in the 72 hours following the last communication, yesterday at 11:20 UTC, then the Watch Dog should be kick starting the satellite and get everything back operational again. Everybody waits and hopes to see this coming Friday 23rd March. In the mean time, the team tries to find out more about what could have caused the sudden stop of communication.
PicSat has been in India at the ISRO Sriharikota launch base since last month, and PicSat team members Mathias Lowak and Lester David have been on site to make sure that all is OK.
The launch is foreseen to happen on Friday 12 January at 4h48m AM Paris local time (9h28m local time in Shriharikota). It will happen on the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) mission C40, together with a collection of other CubeSats and the larger Cartosat mission. After the ignition of the rocket, it should be about 20 minutes to reach the altitude of 505km where PicSat it to be released from its launch pod. The initialisation sequence is then automatically started, and 30 minutes later the antennas will deploy.
Then somewhere between 8 and 10 in the morning local time, we expect to receive a signal from PicSat as it passes of the Paris region.
We are all very excited with the prospect of having our satellite finally up in Low Earth Orbit soon!