École Polytechnique Launches the First Operational French Student Satellite
It is the ambition of AstronautiX, the student space center of the École Polytechnique, to train students in space engineering, from design to orbit. Under its tutelage, in 2011, a team of polytechnic students responds to the call of the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI) in Brussels to realize a double CubeSat (two cubes of 10cm of edge, 1kg and 1W each) . This nano-satellite is a great educational tool for acquiring industrial experience and contributing to scientific innovation and research.
In a constellation of 36 nano-satellites built by universities in 23 countries, X-CubeSat analyzes the atomic oxygen content of the thermosphere, one of the least studied atmospheric layers. It is placed on the same orbit as the International Space Station, at 415 km altitude. The data collected will improve the models of the Earth's atmosphere as well as predictions of atmospheric re-entry of satellites. Specifically, it is part of the project QB501 piloted by the VKI and financed by the European Union. According to Dr. Davide Masutti, head of the mission, "this is the first ever international study of the thermosphere coordinated in real time. The data generated by the constellation will be unique in many respects and will be used for many years by scientists from around the world. "
The nano-satellite of the École Polytechnique is thus the fruit of six years of work and close collaboration between the students of polytechnics, AstronautiX, and two laboratories of the X: the Laboratory of Plasma Physics (LPP) Dynamic Meteorology (LMD) in collaboration with the CNRS, in conjunction with the École des Mines ParisTech, AMSAT-Francophone, the National Center for Space Studies and the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics.
At the national level, it is part of the CNES funding program JANUS. Its objective is to promote space among students by allowing them to develop and send their own satellite equipped with scientific instruments in space. JANUS also promotes scientific courses with a strong experimental dimension in the various fields of space.
X-CubeSat will now begin a long descent of several months, slowed down by the Earth's atmosphere. But for AstronautiX the adventure will not stop there. After the launch of the first operational French student satellite, the École polytechnique's student space center can count on its ten other space projects to keep dreaming about the conquest of space.
 This project received funding from the Seventh Framework Program of the European Union for Research and Technological Development under Grant Agreement No 284427. This publication is the sole responsibility of the author and the European Union can not be held responsible for the use that may be made of the information contained therein.