On Monday 28 April 2008 at 05:53 CET, a rocket is scheduled to lift off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre near Chennai in India, carrying an 800+ kilo payload consisting primarily of India's latest Cartosat remote imaging satellite. Meanwhile, nearly 8,000 kilometres away at Aalborg University in Denmark, the launch will be followed with intense interest, if not a little suspense. That's because the rocket will also be lifting a Danish satellite into orbit.
Designed and engineered by students at Aalborg University, the AAUSAT-II satellite is nothing like as big as Cartosat. In fact it's little more than a 10 cm (4 inch) cube, weighing a mere 750 grams. But it packs a lot of carefully considered technology into its modest dimensions.
Among those present at Aalborg University's 'Mission Control Centre' as they attempt to make the first contact with AAUSAT-II as it passes overhead in low earth orbit at around 09:00 CET will be the project's leader, Associate Professor Jens Dalsgaard Nielsen, who in a university press release describes the value that such a project represents:
"Working with small satellites gives our engineering students special competencies, because it involves many different considerations such as design, calculations, project management, test runs, software and so on. The students learn not only about teamwork but also about collaboration between teams in order to reach a common goal."
More than 150 students have been involved so far in the AAUSAT-II project, which is sponsored on a 50-50 basis between Aalborg University and a group of leading Danish companies and investment funds including Texas Instruments, Grundfos and Siemens Fund.
Aalborg University's space programme began in 2001 when its first satellite AAU was sent up. This success was followed by a second satellite launch in 2005.
The main purpose of the current mission is to provide challenging educational opportunities for the university's engineering students. But there is also an interesting technical aspect to the project, since AAUSAT-II is carrying a gamma-radiation detector - the first of its particular type and size to be launched into space.