The novel cubesat, known as FITSAT-1, has been orbiting Earth since early October of last year. Though it tips the scales at less than 3 pounds (1.3 kilograms), FITSAT-1’s powerful light-emitting diodes (LEDs) make it a compelling target for skywatchers.
“As long as the LEDs are active, then you will be able to see it using binoculars,” veteran Canadian satellite watcher Kevin Fetter told SPACE.com
An artificial star
FITSAT-1 was built at Japan’s Fukuoka Institute of Technology. The tiny spacecraft is also called Niwaka, after “Hakata Niwaka,” an improvised performance of traditional Japanese comedies with masks.
The spacecraft was carried up to the International Space Station on Japan’s unmanned H-2 Transfer Vehicle-3 in July 2012, then deployed from the orbiting lab in October by Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide. [Photos: Tiny Satellites Launch from Space Station]
To cast FITSAT-1 and two other cubesats off into space, Hoshide used the Small Satellite Orbital Deployer that was attached to the Japanese Kibo module’s robotic arm.
FITSAT-1’s orbit is taking it between 51.6 degrees south latitude and 51.6 degrees north latitude. The cubesat contains a neodymium magnet that forces it to point always to magnetic north, like a compass. …