TuPOD released in Space photographed by the ISS astronauts - Photo Credits ESA
TuPOD released in Space photographed by the ISS astronauts – Photo Credits ESA

The TuPOD is an innovative system, being at the same time a satellite – a 3U CubeSatand a deployer platform – it carries inside two even smaller satellites, the TubeSats –produced in 2016 and launched by the International Space Station (ISS).

This small satellite/deployer is the result of a successful international collaboration. It has been designed, built, tested and integrated by GAUSS Srl in close cooperation with the company Teton Aerospace (Tetonsys) and it has benefited from the support/sponsorship of Morehead State University (MSU) which provided environmental testing and initial electronic design, CRP Technology which provided the manufacturing of the structures$50Sat team which developed the initial version of the firmware and MCS Mollificio which provided the satellite’s springs.

The two TubeSats contained inside the TuPOD are TANCREDO-1 and OSNSAT. TANCREDO-1 has been carried out by Brazilian students from “Escola Municipal Presidente Tancredo de Almeida Neves” together with INPE, as part of the UbatubaSat Project. OSNSAT has been developed by the Californian company  Open Space Network

Following the assembly of the TuPOD and the integration of the TubeSats inside its structure, performed last Summer in Rome, in November 2016 the TuPOD was brought to Japan to JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) in order to be integrated inside the J-SSOD (JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer) at JAXA’s Tsukuba Space Center (TKSC) in Ibaraki Prefecture by JAXA, JAMSS and GAUSS personnel.

Then the J-SSOD deployer, where the TuPOD was integrated together with other 6 micro satellites, has been installed in the H-IIB Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI” (HTV-6). The HTV-6 launch took place on December 9, 2016, at 13:26:47GMT, from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex, Tanegashima Space Center, in Japan. The TuPOD reached the International Space Station (ISS), on-board the HTV-6 supply ship on December 13, at 10:39 a.m. (GMT). As scheduled, the TuPOD has been deployed by the astronauts using the “Kibo” Experiment Module of the ISS on January 16, 2017, at 10:50GMT. The TuPOD started flying on its own orbit (a bit lower than the one of the ISS) and then, 3 and a half days later, it released on turn its two TubeSats, the first TubeSats ever launched. Once in orbit, the TuPOD transmits a morse code (beacon) for a few days, eventually re-entering the atmosphere (after few months).

The TuPOD is a significant undertaking for the international space dissemination and it represents an innovation since its structure has been completely 3D printed.

The TuPOD is expected to re-enter the Earth atmosphere in a few weeks after the TubeSats deployment.

The TuPOD released from the JSSOD onboard the ISS - Photo Credit Thomas Pesquet
The TuPOD released from the JSSOD onboard the ISS – Photo Credit ESA

JAMSS Small Satellite Launch Services Overview