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Aalto-2: Finland's first satellite launched into orbit

After years of preparation and delays, Finland's first satellite was successfully launched into space on Tuesday. Roughly the size of a one-litre milk carton, the Aalto-2 nano satellite, along with 37 similar devices and tonnes of gear, was shot into space aboard the Cygnus spacecraft from the US state of Florida.

Aalto satellite
Professor Jaan Praks and Reaktor Space Lab CEO Tuomas Tikka with the Aalto-1 (on left) and the smaller Aalto-2 nano satellites at Aalto University in Espoo, Finland in March 2017. File photo.

Weather conditions at Cape Canaveral in Florida on Tuesday were ideal for the launch of the Cygnus automated cargo spacecraft. Powered by the Atlas V rocket, the Cygnus was loaded with 38 nano satellites and tonnes of gear, including Finland's first-ever satellite, the Aalto-2.

Although small, the Aalto-2 is equipped with a spectrometer, a compact radiation monitor and an electrostatic plasma brake, which is a variant on the electric solar wind sail, a new space propulsion method invented in Finland.

The team of researchers and students designed the Aalto-2, which is a little bigger than a one-litre milk carton, to be used in space and space tech research.

Cygnus, loaded with more than three tonnes of gear, was successfully launched at 6:12 pm Finnish time on Tuesday.

Video glitch: Cygnus in 360 degree video

For the first time ever, the US space agency NASA video streamed the launch in a 360-degree video, a format that allows viewers to look in all directions around the screen.

However, due to a technical glitch the moment of the actual launch was not recorded properly on the 360-degree feed. A NASA representative wrote that there are other, non-360 version views of the launch available on YouTube.

The Aalto-2 project is coordinated by a team of five departments at Aalto University after a group of Space Technology special assignment students made a feasibility study. The project began at the start of 2010.

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