The Cal Poly CubeSat Laboratory released its first high-resolution image of Earth Nov. 24, taken by their CubeSat DAVE. 

The university’s ninth CubeSat, named DAVE (Damping and Vibrations Experiment), is testing ways to reduce vibrations on orbiting satellites, while taking photos of Earth along the way. The first high-resolution image was taken just hours after the launch.

According to PolySat, the high-res photo shows Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago located between Norway and the North Pole. The photo was taken with a small three-megapixel camera, which is the equivalent of a flip phone camera.

“High resolution pictures take a long time to download because the satellite is only in range for a total of 40 minutes total per day, so it takes several days at best to download a picture like this,” aerospace engineering and physics senior Grigory Heaton said. “This one happened to be a very clear picture of an interesting island group in the far north, and it was the first high res image we downloaded.”

DAVE was launched with NASA’s InSight mission to Mars from Vandenberg Air Force Base seven months ago. 

“This is the first satellite we’ve launched in several years, and I believe it’s the first time any of the current students at our lab have seen one of our satellites launch,” Heaton said. “The satellite runs a vibration experiment that hasn’t ever been done before.”

The satellite was designed and built by Cal Poly students with help from Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. The CubeSat satellite is about the size of a grapefruit.

Heaton said that it is surreal to go from seeing a place on a map to seeing a picture from a satellite that he helped work on, taken in the same place.

“Working with the PolySat lab during my time at Cal Poly is a defining part of my experience at this school. Our missions conduct useful scientific research in orbit, and it is a unique experience to get to work on this kind of thing as an undergraduate student,” Heaton said.

As more images are downloaded, PolySat will continue sharing high and medium-resolution versions of the photos from DAVE on the club’s Facebook page.

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