Five small low-cost satellites are deployed today from the ISS to conduct scientific missions and test a possible type of optical communication scheme.
CubeSats, palm-sized satellites measuring 4 inches, are solar-powered cubes that will orbit the Earth for the next 100 days.
One of the satellites launched was a Japanese one tasked with sending a Morse code message that would be seen across the world.
To be the first orbiter to transmit a message across the sky using LED is what the designers of the satellite is hoping to achieve. The small cube, measuring only 10cm, is set to send a message in Morse code using bursts of intense light.
The message was only meant to be seen in Japan but according to Professor Takushi Tanaka of Fukuoka Institute of Technology, they were flooded with requests from researchers in Slovakia, Germany, Britain, Hungary, Italy and US that the satellite also communicate when it flies over their countries.
“Requests came from far more people than I expected – a man in Silicon Valley wanted to see it while another man wanted us to flash it over Central Park in New York,” said Professor Tanaka.
Tanaka said they would try their best to fulfill the requests but also cautioned observers against possible deception from random light flashes and added that seeing the Morse code message would depend on the weather. The satellite is named Niwaka, a pun in southwestern dialect of Japan. It will flash the message “Hi this is Niwaka Japan” to observers around the world equipped with binoculars. They will, weather-permitting, be able to catch colored flashes of light from the sky — red for those in the southern hemisphere and green for those in the northern. That is because the front part of the satellite has a differently colored LED from its back part.
Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have launched the satellite from its Kibou (Hope) laboratory and is set to orbit Earth 16 times per day. Three of the five satellites launched is from Japan, each of them provided by Wakayama University, Tohoku University and Fukuoka Institute of Technology.
Aside from transmitting the Morse message, the satellite is also set to take pictures of Earth using its camera and high-speed data transmission capability.
The satellites were released at 400 km above the Earth last week and is now in regular orbit. Certain locations and times will be announced on the ISS website.