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 is a republican


    January 20, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Going John Galt

    And yes, I am a Republican. 2nd fulltime week on the job and proposed 2.5 trillion dollars (with a t) in budget cuts. The grownups are home!

    January 20, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      Perhaps it would be more accurate to call myself a Libertarian Republican.

      January 20, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry C. Lyons

      "Libertarian Republican"

      Isn't that an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or compassionate conservative?

      January 20, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. me

    who is John Galt?

    January 20, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeffrey Root

      Someone who is very selfish. Yeah. That's the way I see that book. It presents a justification for only thinking of yourself. Whatever.

      January 20, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      The book was about selfishness; the selfishness of asking others to pay your way through life. I find it ironic that 40% profit margin for a company is considered greedy while a 40% marginal tax rate is called "Paying your fair share".

      January 20, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. kaisersouse

    Christ you people are stupid. Shut up already and take it to Craigslist rant+raves. Dolts.

    January 20, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Going John Galt

    Trollin, Trollin, Trollin. Keep the liberals trollin. Boy, their hands are swollen, raw side!

    January 20, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Billish

    This is a stunning success for a small, low-cost mission....not to mention all the fantastic successes NASA has made on larger missions. For those who weren't aware, NASA's annual budget is less than 0.5 PERCENT of the total federal budget....that's less than HALF of one percent of the Federal budget. NASA takes over a year to spend what we waste in Iraq every two months. Moreover, 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 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeffrey Root

      You make a point that most Americans have no knowledge of.

      January 20, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      Billish, the problem is that your post, while very logical and true, doesn't fit onto a bumper sticker or into a 10 second sound bite.

      January 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mr Bill

    Way to go Dexter, body slamed by the group. What a wimp. Come on get up show us whatyou got PoinDEXTER!! HA HA

    January 20, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. David Hoffman

    This appears to be a miniature version of those deep space exploration craft that have been proposed. Solar wind powered space ships. Space technology is so interesting. The time delays in radio commands which require you to really plan ahead. The strict physics required to go into orbit and stay there. The technology to break orbit. and navigate to a spot in space. There is no up or down. When I was younger, you had to be a pilot in order to become an astronaut. I could not have gotten into flight school. Today you can be a mission specialist with no flight training. Tomorrow you might be able to just book a ticket to an orbiting hotel. Cool stuff.

    January 20, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. coder2

    Thank god Dexter's mom finally called him upstairs for dinner!

    January 20, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. GuerillaGorilla

    Cool... Now all we have to do is figure out a tethering system so that three or four of these can deploy from a larger sat, and tow it along. We also need to figure out a good battery system so that as the mini-sats are deployed they can charge the parent satelite by absorbing and converting the solar radiation prevalent throughout the galaxy.

    January 20, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Frank Mondana

    It's OK to have informed opinions, not ignorance spewed out with arrogance.
    What I find amazing is all the views blasting away about the space program and how "stupid" it is being entered on a machine that wouldn't be functioning if not for the very program these idiots hate. I really giggle at the negative comments on articles that describe some really difficult astrophysical topic. The easiest way to really let ignorance shine and paste a label on your forehead that says "idiot" (or JOCK) is to hate something of which you have no clue.

    January 20, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. krozar

    Just a few decades away from space pirates! Asteroid ports will be terrorized when they arrive looking for free rum and women.

    January 20, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jerry Vinter

    How is this a nano-sattelite ? The dimensions for half a loaf of bread are much much larger than a nanometer (1e-9 m).

    January 20, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Logic

    Arrrg...haul the main sheet...we be sailin' the stars for real matey....

    January 20, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jojo

    I guess count dooku can get home now

    January 20, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
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