Establishing the first network link between Malta and space

Scientific Research

Malta's first payload in the ISS, taken through Arkafort's mission control station.

The Project Maleth experiment has made it to space! During the past few months, we have been busy setting things up to establish network communication with the international space station and being able to control the cube which carries the experiment. The cube went online on Thursday September 2nd, 2021, and is equipped with two cameras, individually controlled LED strips and an array of sensors. It will be monitored regularly from our end, and we will be taking photos, videos and collecting telemetry. The data collected will go to Arkafort's data centre, where it will be processed, stored, and made available to Professor Joseph Borg and his team at the University of Malta and Mater Dei Hospital.

The first ping from Malta to Space

Network communication onboard the ISS occurs through a range of data relay satellites, which transmit communication from the station to the ground. Given that the ISS orbits around the Earth every 90 minutes, there are periods of blackout in communication. During these periods, communication with the cube is lost. These periods are scheduled, and so our operations team takes these blackouts into account when monitoring the cube. The backbone of this communication link is a highly secure VPN, with hardware encryption devices which allow us to have direct network connectivity with the cube.

The setup also includes a dedicated laptop, on which the cube control software is installed. Located in our operations centre in Qormi, the mission control setup is monitored 24/7, for the duration of the mission. The experiment will be in orbit for 50 to 60 days and is expected to land back to earth between the end of October and the beginning of November. SpaceX CRS-23 was scheduled to launch on Saturday 28th August at 9:37 CEST, but the launch was scrubbed due to weather conditions in Cape Canaveral Florida, USA (The launch site). SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rocket took off on Sunday 29th August at 9:14 CEST, and the Dragon capsule docked with the ISS the following day.

Project Maleth is managed by SpaceOMIX, funded by the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs of Malta, biotech company Evolve Ltd and Arkafort and supported by the Ministry for Research, Innovation and post COVID19 strategy. This collaboration was initiated and facilitated by the RIDT at the University of Malta.

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