Harbin Institute of Technology

The Struggle of the HIT Lilac Student Micro-nano Satellite Team in Pursuit of the Dream of a Powerful Aerospace Country Reported by The People's Daily

Updated: 2019/09/02

Written by: HIT News
Translated by: YANG Yue
Edited by: William Mosteller
Date: 6-12

HIT News On June 6, The People's Daily reported the story of the HIT Lilac Student Micro-nano Satellite Team striving for the dream of a powerful aerospace country through multimedia including text, pictures, video, and audio, under the heading of "A Post-90s Student Micro-nano Satellite Research Team of Harbin Institute of Technology Made Lilac Blossom in the Starry Sky". The full text of the report is as follows:

(Reported by: FANG Yuan) The campus of HIT is silent at midnight. Several students walked out of the Satellite Technology Research Institute lab, sharing the results of the experiment with enthusiasm and laughing.

The dormitory has been locked. "It's you little spacemen again. Where do you get the energy to stay up all night? Go to bed. Hurry up!" The supervisor of the dorm yawned and let them in.

These students are members of the HIT Lilac Student Micro-nano Satellite Team. What are they busy at? In February, a photograph taken on the far side of the moon and praised by foreign media as "the most beautiful picture of the Moon and the Earth" was unveiled around the world. The photographer is called Longjiang II, a microsatellite launched to the moon with the Chang'e 4 relay mission. The creators of the satellite are these post-90s college students, whose average age is less than 24. They are chasing the same dream—the dream of a powerful aerospace country

The team is like a giant magnet.

The Lilac Team, founded in 2010, has absorbed more than 100 undergraduate and doctoral students of HIT, from nine disciplines including aerospace, mechanics, computer science, communications engineering, and so on.

The student team plays an important role in the HIT binary star project. LI Mingjiang, the secretary of the Party committee of Harbin Institute of Technology’s College of Astronautics, recalled: "At that time, the Chang'e 4 relay mission had a carrying capacity of 100 kilograms. The National Defense Science and Industry Bureau publicly solicited contributions. The binary star plan submitted by Harbin Institute of Technology was chosen. The two satellites were named Longjiang I and Longjiang II at the 2018 'China Aerospace Day".

The road to scientific research has never been plain sailing. QIU Shi, the chief designer of the satellite management subsystem of Longjiang II, said: "During the critical launch period, the members slept for only two hours a day, but the Longjiang I was lost." Before it was too late to grieve, the members immediately threw themselves into the discussion of the Longjiang II orbit control strategy. At 22:00 PM on May 25 last year, Longjiang II successfully entered the lunar orbit, becoming the first micro-satellite in the world to complete the earth-moon transfer, brake at perilune, and complete a circumlunar flight independently. HIT became the first university in the world to put a micro-sized spacecraft into lunar orbit. "These were high-intensity experiments, and everyone lacked sleep, but no one complained. That's the power of dreams," QIU Shi said.

The designer of the miniature camera on Longjiang II is TAI Mier, a senior student major in communication engineering at the College of Electronics and Information Engineering. "It's the equivalent of putting the camera in an eraser-sized space," he said. "Although it's well received, there's still room for improvement in terms of color, calibration, and so on."

HUANG Jiahe, born in 1999, is the youngest member of the team and is responsible for satellite data processing and software design in the Longjiang II project. Coming from Guangzhou, he was a "space fan" when he was very young. When he was at high school, he accidentally learned about the Lilac Team. Then he embarked on a few thousand kilometers journey to school. "The team doesn't give priority only to seniority. Even though I'm only a sophomore, the rest of the team never underestimates me. The team is recruiting new people and will absorb post-00s," HUANG Jiahe said.

The team has also had a significant impact on the planning and development of individual members. ZHANG Jihe returned to the team after a year’s work in a listed company after graduating with a master's degree. He is continuing to study for a doctorate. "It's addictive," he said. “The team is like a huge magnet, attracting every space enthusiast to jump in and realize their dreams."

Scientific inspiration takes root here.

Can college students develop satellites themselves and launch them successfully? "A lot of people thought it was a fantasy until the success of Lilac II." WEI Mingchuan, a doctor in aeronautics and astronautics, explained: "The Lilac team started developing the satellite under the European Union's QB50 project in 2010, which involved universities around the world. It used a network of 50 cubic satellites."

In May 2012, the Lilac I cubic satellite designed by the team, which weighs just 2 kg and has an orbit altitude of approximately 350 km, was selected for the QB50 project to explore 90km to 300 km of low-level space that had not yet been studied in depth by humans and was released into orbit from the International Space Station in 2017. In 2015, Lilac II was launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, becoming the first micro-nano satellite designed, developed, and controlled independently by university students.

On March 29 of this year, the Lilac I successfully completed its mission after two years, while Lilac II is still in normal operation in orbit. "The design life of the two micro-nano satellites was originally only three to six months, but they were both very 'capable' and exceeded their mission," WEI Mingchuan laughed.

Scientific research never stops. Recently, these young students are busy with the design and development of the ASRTU micro-nano satellite. "We've upgraded the components, and the payload camera has a higher resolution. We hope it will be launched next year." Talking about the new project, WEI Mingchuan was excited. "There is no constraint on innovation, and there is financial support. Research ideas that come to light can take root here." ZHANG Jihe also feels the same way.

 "This is a broad platform for all students to participate in. It has become a bright business card for the training of integrated innovative aerospace talents in our university. Here, teachers and students share scientific research resources and have an equal collision of thinking." CAO Xibin, vice president of Harbin Institute of Technology, said, "In the future, we will also attract foreign students and liberal arts students to join, reflecting interdisciplinary cooperation and diversification."

 Backed up by a strong motherland

 "We have always been committed to international exchange and cooperation in the field of aerospace. The Lilac Series micro-nano satellites developed independently by our students have attracted wide attention. Radio enthusiasts all over the world can access and share telemetry data from the satellites." CAO Xibin said: "The 'most beautiful picture of the Moon and the Earth' published in Science magazine was downloaded by a team of students in conjunction with radio enthusiasts from the Netherlands and Germany."

"We have also taken the initiative to open our space resources to the world. Space enthusiasts in more than 200 countries and regions are now able to receive our data. All continents except Antarctica are covered." HUANG Jiahe was excited: "Space enthusiasts from more than one country gave a big thumbs-up during the video call, praising our micro-nano satellite program as a model for international cooperation." "Behind us, there is a strong motherland as the backing. Only with the promotion of comprehensive national strength can students participate in space practice," said CAO Xibin.

"We have always taught our students not to forget their original intention and consciously integrate their personal pursuit of ideals into the cause of the country and the nation. The cultivation of such values is imperceptible. World-class party building drives world-class scientific research. We plan to rely on the Lilac teams to establish party branches and to give full play to the backbone role of party members in tackling key scientific research problems,” LI Mingjiang said.

On campus, lilacs attract many people to take photos. At this moment, members of the Lilac Team, named after the flowers of Harbin Institute of Technology, have already tied their hearts to satellites, wandering through the mysterious and vast starry sky, exploring more unknown possibilities.

Link of the report:


Edited by:ZHANG Yan



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