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Surfsat 1

Surfsat 1 [GDK]

Surfsat 1 (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Satellite 1), a student-built satellite, consists of two aluminum rectangles each about the size of a bread box. The JPL spacecraft, funded by NASA at a cost of $3M, was successfully launched 4 November 1995 on a Delta-7920-10 launch vehicle. Surfsat-1 went as a secondary payload on the Canadian Radarsat 1 satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The satellite was designed, built, and tested with the help of 60 undergraduate college students from the California Institute of Technology and 14 other universities. It consisted of two boxes covered with solar cells and fixed to the Delta second stage. The stage and Surfsat were gravity gradient stabilized and there were no batteries.

Surfsat-1 contains low power radio beacons and transponders, radiating over hemispherical antennas in three microwave bands, for testing new NASA ground tracking facilities. The spacecraft, which remains attached to the second stage of the launch vehicle, is designed to operate for at least one year.

The equipment was:

  • Coherent beacons for deep space communication tests: 10 milliwatts at 8.4 GHz (X-band), 1 milliwatt at 32 GHz (Ka-band)
  • 10 milliwatts output coherent microwave transponders (7.2 GHz up and 8.4 GHz down) for space VLBI tests for RadioAstron
  • 20 milliwatts output coherent microwave transponders (15.3 GHz up and 14.1 GHz down) for space VLBI tests for VSOP
  • Three independent X-band command detector units for determining spacecraft states: ON/OFF, ACQUISITION/NORMAL, XKa-bands/Ku-band
  • Three (X-band, Ku-band, and Ka-band) short corner-mounted stub antennas with hemispherical coverage
Nation: USA
Type / Application: Technology
Equipment: see above
Configuration: 2 Boxes on Delta stage 2
Propulsion: None in orbit
Power: Solar cells
Lifetime: 1 year
Mass: 55 kg (without Delta stage)
Orbit: 935 km × 1495 km, 100.6
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
Surfsat 1 1995-059B 04.11.1995 Va SLC-2W Delta-7920-10 with Radarsat 1


  • SUurfsat website