Aztech-Sat: NASA and Mexican universities develop satellites to track marine animals

Four Mexican universities are working on the design and construction of four 10x10x10 centimeter mini-satellites that will orbit the Earth to track marine animals, which migrate from the North and South Poles to the equator and back.

This project is coordinated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (POTafter its acronym in English) from the United States, with the support of the Mexican Space Agency (AEM).

The National Autonomous University of Mexico, the Popular Autonomous University of Puebla, the Pan-American University, the Aeronautical University of Querétaro and the Polytechnic University of Querétaro participate in the design and construction of the four mini-satellites.

The project, called “Aztech-Sat”, is a constellation of satellites that will travel outside the planet in a consecutive and orderly manner, which will be put into orbit in a mission that NASA plans for 2025.

José Francisco Valdés Galicia, Jesús González González, Andrés Martínez and Salvador Landeros Ayala announced the details of this initiative during the Third National Congress of Space Activities (CONACES 2022), organized by the AEM, in Aguascalientes.

The project will create a monitoring system for marine species based on artificial satellites implemented with free software and commercially available hardware.

It should be noted that the minisatellites, called CubeSats, due to their cube design; they will cost 10 million pesos, a figure lower than the budgets that were previously spent on satellites, which were tens or hundreds of millions of pesos.

The director of the Institute of Astronomy of the National University, Jesús González González, said that it is intended to generate a database of movement and location of marine species to carry out large-scale research.

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For his part, the coordinator of the UNAM University Space Program, José Francisco Valdés Galicia, declared that the equipment used for this task for a decade or more needs to be updated, since they have limitations in the sensors that are placed on the marine animals so that they can transmit data.

Coordinator of the University Space Program of the UNAM, José Francisco Valdés Galicia. Photo: UNAM

“It will be the first project of its kind in the world, in which Mexico participates with more modern technology,” he added.

In this regard, the technical representative of NASA for Latin America, Andrés Martínez, stressed the importance of collaboration and training of human capital in the space issue.

We are facing a great scientific and technical challenge, because we have to work with Mexican teams from various universities as a single team.

Finally, the general director of AEM, Salvador Landeros Ayala, stated that with plans such as Aztech-Sat, knowledge and experience are assimilated, in order to scale up the construction of larger satellites and more ambitious projects that promote research and training of human resources in the area.

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