Satellite Launch
Satellite LaunchNASA Photo

A group of Israeli high school students have built a tiny satelitte - dubbed Duchifat-2 (Hoopoe, the national bird of Israel). The nanosatellite flew Tuesday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on its way to study the atmosphere as part of an international research project. 28 other nanosatellites are participating in the project, but this is the only one which involved high school students.

Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) is an initiative created by NASA to attract and retain students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. ELaNa reaches students by introducing educational spaceflight in high schools and colleges across the United States. 23 European countries from the European Union’s QB50 thermosphere research program are also taking part in the NASA program.

More than 80 pupils in grades 9-12 at schools in Herzliya, Ofakim, Yeruham, Ofra, and the Bedouin town of Hura helped to construct Duchifat-2, which weighs just 1.8 kilograms (four pounds), and is just 20 centimeters (eight inches) tall and 10 centimeters wide. Due to its small size, the satellite has no motors and instead uses the earth’s magnetic field to keep itself correctly aligned in space.

An Atlas V supply rocket carrying all of satellites along with over three tons of supplies blasted off from Florida headed for the International Space Station, which it will reach after approximately two days of travel. Astronauts inside the orbiting space station will then release Duchifat-2 into space in about six weeks’ time.

The Israeli satellite will study the plasma density in the lower thermosphere, a layer of the atmosphere that begins at about 85 kilometers (53 miles) altitude and continues up to about 300 kilometers (185 miles). Signals from the satellite will be received at the Herzliya Science Center, where pupils will then analyze the data.

Science Minister Ofir Akunis said in a statement that “Duchifat-2 is not only an educational venture that brings space closer to youth and lays the way for tomorrow’s generation, it is also an international research project. This is Israeli pride for the future generation, and an opportunity to increase public awareness about space.”

The project was funded by the Science Ministry’s Israel Space Agency and administered by the Herzliya Science Center, a department of the Herzliya municipality. Students were assisted by engineers from the ISA and the Israel Aircraft Industries.