Stubborn nano-satellite finally pops out
The NanoSail-D's doors are supposed to open like blades on a ceiling fan, allowing a large polymer sail to pop out.
January 20th, 2011
02:34 PM ET

Stubborn nano-satellite finally pops out

A reluctant mini-satellite finally sprang from its mother ship this week, and NASA used amateur radio operators to help find it and check on its status.

The NanoSail-D was supposed to deploy from the Fast Affordable Scientific and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, on December 6, but it just sat there for more than six weeks, refusing to come out of the barn.

Mission operators at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, kept the door open, hoping the NanoSatellite - about the size of a loaf of bread - would eventually emerge on its own, which it finally did on Wednesday.

"We knew that the door opened and it was possible that NanoSail-D could eject on its own," Mark Boudreaux, FASTSAT project manager at the Marshall Center, said in a press release. "What a pleasant surprise this morning when our flight operations team confirmed that NanoSail-D is now a free flyer."

That event triggered a three-day countdown until four doors are supposed to open like the blades on a ceiling fan, allowing a large polymer sail to pop out.

NASA had asked ham radio operators to listen for NanoSail-D's signal at 437.270 megahertz and report their findings to the NanoSail-D dashboard.

By midday Thursday a signal had been detected, and the team in Huntsville determined the craft was operating normally, NASA reported.

NanoSail-D is expected to stay in low-Earth orbit for 70 to 120 days, depending on atmospheric conditions.

The purpose of the test mission is to show that NASA can deploy a solar sail and that it can deploy a mini-satellite without its host satellite later colliding with it.

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Filed under: Alabama • Science • Space
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Dexter

    Keep chopping Nasa's budget. This is the type of stuff that makes us a world class leader.
    Got rid of manned space flight.
    I am sure this is next.

    What a shame!

    January 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joshua Ludd

      No kidding.. we can either keep the huge, hypertrophied military, the global empire, and the huge tax breaks for the wealthy... or we can keep our infrastructure, education, provide health care, realistically fight hunger and poverty and our status as a first world country.

      January 20, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Billish

      I have no idea what your actual comment is supposed to be indicating, however, it comes across as pretty ill-informed. First of all, NASA's annual budget is less than 0.5 PERCENT of the total federal's about what we spend in Iraq in two months. Secondly, about 95% of NASA's missions are amazingly successful. We've landed rovers on Mars that were designed to last three months...they've lasted over four YEARS. We've discovered the first earth-like rocky planets around other stars using the new Kepler mission. We've visited every major planet in our solar system, even overcoming problems like the stuck antenna on the Galileo Jupiter mission to get stunning data and photos returned to earth. And the solar observing missions like SOHO are CRITICAL towards monitoring the Sun's influence on Earth's climate. There are literally a hundred or more other stunning successes I could go on about, but time doesn't permit...just do some reading.

      January 20, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeffrey Root

      We didn't get rid of manned space flight. NASA is investing in the private sector to find better and cheaper ways to get astronauts into space. Also, under Obama's new space plan a heavy lift rocket is being designed to take astronauts out of Earth orbit, something we have not achieved since 1972. I would say that he has shown more support for the space program than any president since.

      January 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      I agree! Let's start with a wasteful Air Force program. GPS satellites will no longer be maintained.
      No more communications satellites either, because we'll either pay whatever Russia or China demands or nothing goes up, since we don't like military launches OR NASA launches.
      We'll also get rid of that other military technology that is useless, as extra bloated military expenditure. The internet.

      January 20, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      @ Joshua Ludd

      Obviously you don't have a real job or pay taxes...

      January 20, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuu

      Joshua Ludd: We are NOT living in a zero sum economy. You have no idea what you are talking about, so stop spewing crap for impressionable viewers.

      January 20, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • GuerillaGorilla

      NASA didn't get rid of manned space flight, just the extremely expensive shuttle program. NASA still plans on making manned space flight, just though more affordable private sector options. The satelites that are put up are put up through unmanned expendable rockets. This program isn't going away any time soon because it's success will inevitably save NASA billions of dollars in fuel expenses. Imagine using micro-satelites, dozens per launch, with secificly programmed missions, meant to achieve a sigle mission spec. Satelites that do not require a fuel source for propulsion, so we can cram more sensors and equipment in them. Now imagine launching a rocket with a couple hundred of these satelites in it, al moving out to perform dozens of missions, all in a single launch. The short term savings would be phenominal, and the long term savings would be out of this world (yes, the pun was intended). THAT is what this test is about.

      January 20, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • elidude

      Yo, Joshua, Amen!

      January 20, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. cnnshouldcheckusgs

    what do you expect from a place based in alabama?

    January 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      If it were not for the great programs out of Marshall we would not have any of the abilities to enter space like we do today. This is where space flight was born after WW2 with german scientists.

      January 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. obviously

    Sarah Palin's fault.

    January 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dexter

      Yes – you are correct!!! And McCain – and W.
      Kennedy, Clinton and Obama – rule!

      January 20, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nate

    Too much solar sail, not enough nuclear fusion, wormholes, and mega-deathrays.

    January 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bailoutsos

    They should have sent the Maytag repairman to fix it.

    January 20, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Edward

    The purpose of the test mission is to show that NASA can deploy a solar sail and that it can deploy a mini-satellite without its host satellite later colliding with it.

    In order to do what?

    January 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dexter blows a$$

    If your going to post first...make it interesting.

    January 20, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jimboe

    The future is space and does not involve religion.

    January 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • elidude

      NO, no, no. It's weirder than that.... The future is religion, and it DOES involve space... get ready.....

      January 20, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. wjones


    Just curious, are you actually a parrot who heard someone on TV say "cross-hair politics," or do you just not have anything better to do?

    January 20, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Really

    Maybe spend less time making stupid comments with typing errors and more time finding a nice man to settle down with...

    January 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Really

    By the for politics.....I am the opposite of what ever you claim to be....

    January 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ike


    Just curious, are you a troll?

    January 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      DARN!! You beat me to it!

      January 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Scotty

    Dexter – try finding something else to do. No, I'm not a republican.

    January 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Going John Galt

    @ Dexter

    Just curious, are you a troll?

    January 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. kaisersouse

    73, nanosat!

    January 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
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