Carnegie Mellon University

SpaceX Transporter-3 Rocket

January 13, 2022

Tartan-Artibeus-1 Satellite to Launch to Low-Earth Orbit

Krista Burns

SpaceX is targeting Thursday, January 13 for a Falcon 9 launch of Transporter-3 to orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Tartan-Artibeus-1 Satellite, developed at Carnegie Mellon University, will be deployed to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) aboard the SpaceX Transporter-3 Rocket. It is being launched as part of the Alba Unicorn constellation under the name Unicorn-2TA1.

“Our lab developed the Tartan-Artibeus-1 Satellite, which is what we believe to be the world’s first batteryless PocketQube nanosatellite," said Brandon Lucia, the Sathaye Family Foundation Career Development Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "This project was led by Ph.D. students Brad Denby and Emily Ruppel from my lab and in collaboration with Alba Orbital, our launch services provider."

The mission’s goal is to demonstrate the viability of PocketQube-scale nanosatellites that operate reliably without batteries, eliminating the cost and complexity of battery-based power systems in nanosatellites. The sensor-equipped, 5cmx5cmx5cm cube (1/8 the size of a CubeSat) will sense its environment and perform orbital edge computing to process sensor data in a way that is robust to intermittent operation.

During the mission, the satellite will collect telemetry data about its operation (power state, stored energy, GPS location) and will collect and process sensor data about its environment using applications such as machine learning and inference. The results will be sent back to Earth using a low-power radio.

"A unique aspect of this mission is that while on orbit, the satellite will run Cote, a physics-based orbital dynamics model and orbital edge computing simulator that we developed, giving the satellite better situational awareness without the need to communicate to earth," said Lucia. "This batteryless satellite is the first of its kind and we are very excited for the new scientific results enabled by this unique deployment to Earth’s orbit.”

The 29-minute launch window opens at 10:25 a.m. EST, or 15:25 UTC, and a backup opportunity is available on Friday, January 14 with the same window.

Falcon 9’s first stage booster previously launched Crew Demo-2, ANASIS-II, CRS-21, Transporter-1, and five Starlink missions. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Transporter-3 is SpaceX’s third dedicated rideshare mission, and on board this launch are 105 spacecraft (including CubeSats, microsats, PocketQubes, and orbital transfer vehicles).

A live webcast of this mission will begin about 15 minutes prior to liftoff.