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GENESIS Ham Satellites among Payloads Lost in Launch Failure

09/07/2021

The GENESIS-L and GENESIS-N ham radio satellites were among several carrying amateur radio payloads lost following the failure of the Firefly Alpha rocket during its first launch on September 2 from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. An anomaly occurred about 2 minutes into the mission, causing controllers to destroy the launcher in flight. The anomaly has yet to be explained.

This was sad news for AMSAT-EA (Spain), as GENESIS-L and GENESIS-N were the first satellites they had built themselves.

According to the AMSAT-EA website, the GENESIS satellites were destroyed after the Firefly Alpha vehicle presented an anomaly as it hit a velocity of Mach 1 and reached Max Q, a point of maximum aerodynamic pressure on the vehicle. The launch had been halted a few seconds before takeoff, but the countdown was subsequently resumed.

GENESIS-L and GENESIS-N were to conduct a series of telecommunications-related experiments, while a ground-station analysis of the received signals would try to attain Doppler variations in order to perform orbit determination and satellite identification from radio amateur stations around the world.

Also lost in the launch failure were the Serenity, Hiapo, the Cresst Dream Comet, and QUBIK-1 and QUBIK-2 satellites, and Spinnaker-3/Firefly Capsule 1. All were designed to use amateur radio frequencies for telemetry and/or communication.

Serenity, a 3U CubeSat, was developed by Teachers in Space (TIS) to provide low-cost opportunities to test educational experiments in space. TIS has previously guided high schools and other academic institutions in developing and flying sub-orbital experiments using high-altitude balloons, stratospheric gliders, and rockets. This was the first orbital satellite mission for TIS. Serenity carried a suite of data sensors and a camera to send data back to Earth using amateur frequencies.

Hiapo was an educational 1U CubeSat developed by the Hawaii Science and Technology Museum (HSTM). The Hiapo project was intended to provide hands-on STEM curriculum for Hawaii students in grades K – 12. Part of this curriculum involved obtaining data about solar flares, solar particle events, and disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field. Data would be available for amateur operators to download directly from the satellite.

The Cresst Dream Comet was a 3U CubeSat developed by the University of Cambridge as a small satellite for technology demonstrations.

QUBIK-1 and QUBIK-2 were picosatellites developed by the Libre Space Foundation, a nonprofit association developing PocketQube picosatellite technology. They were built following the 1P PocketQube form factor. The mission of these satellites was similar to that of the GENESIS-L and GENESIS-N satellites.

Spinnaker-3 was a collaboration between the Cal Poly CubeSat Laboratory, Purdue University, and NASA. It was designed to provide rapid de-orbit capability for the second stage of Firefly Alpha’s launch vehicle, using frequency shift keying (FSK) on 70 centimeters for communications. Firefly Capsule 1 consisted of nontechnical items from around the world, including photos, artwork, and books. 



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