After waiting with much anticipation, we've finally heard that the European Space Agency has released a call for proposals for their Fly Your Satellite initiative. We've only just got the news, so details are still a bit scarce, but here's the important bits.
Last year, the ESA started ‘CubeSats for the Vega Maiden Flight’ pilot programme, which culminated in 2012 with the launch of seven university student-built CubeSats on board the Vega Maiden Flight.
This year, teams like ours from all of the European Space Agency's member and cooperating states have to submit a 30-page (which feels dreadfully small!) proposal by the end of February. This proposal will be reviewed by the ESA's CubeSat Evaluation Board, and they'll select the satellites to launch on the Vega rocket (fingers crossed!).Then, the three programme phases begin:
Phase 1: Complete the integration and functional testing of the Flight Model of the satellite.
Phase 2: Test the satellite at the ESA's facilities to make sure it can withstand the space environment. The technical term for the tests to be performed is 'Shake and Bake'.
Phase 3: After a lot of work registering the satellite with various government and regulatory groups, the Flight Model of the satellite is integrated into the CubeSat orbital deployers, and shipped to the launch site.
(Sidenote: things like "registration of their satellite at the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space" don't really sound like work to us.)
While a launch date hasn't been picked yet, the satellite needs to be ready for launch by Summer 2013. The Vega rocket will likely launch from French Guiana, just north of Brazil.