Saturday, April 9, 2011

Meet O/OREOS, NASA's first nanosatellite, 03.09.11

NASA has put a loaf of bread in orbit around earth. Wait, no. Scratch that; they have put a satellite the size of a loaf of bread in orbit. Let us introduce you to NASA’s newest baby: a nanosatellite, O/OREOS. Isn’t it cute?

Image credit: NASA/Dominic Hart.
Weighing in at around 12 pounds and orbiting at approximately 400 miles above earth, O/OREOS (Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses) is the first successful nanosatellite to reach orbit. What’s more, it is the first propellant-less mechanism NASA has used to conduct experiments. It went up in a USAF Minotaur IV rocket as part of the 4-stage payload, and was set in orbit on November 19 of last year. When it is finished with all of its experiments (in about, oh…25 years or so) it will just burn up in Earth’s atmosphere as it falls back towards land. It just drifts round and round the Earth’s orbit, from the Arctic all the way to the Antarctic Circle. It launched from the Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska, too, so it’s got a good start on that north-south downward spiral.

This little loaf of bread—sorry, satellite—is special, too, because it is the first successful attempt by NASA to have two completely independent experiments running simultaneously in the same instrument. What sort of experiments, you ask? Biological and chemical ones. This nifty little satellite’s purpose, according to NASA, is “to answer astrobiology’s fundamental questions about the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe.” Big goals for such a tiny little tool.

What’s more, Santa Clara University has invited the public to help them collect data from O/OREOS. If you are an experienced operator with a HAM radio, you can visit this link,, and get all the information you need to tune in to O/OREOS’ data stream.

Credit: NASA.

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