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Watch 3 'BIRDS' Take Flight from the International Space Station

Three small cubesats were released into low Earth orbit last week as part of a program that helps countries build their first satellites. 

For this mission, called BIRDS-3, the Japanese Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (JSSOD) ejected the tiny satellites outside the Kibo module of the International Space Station using a robotic arm on June 17. The batch of cubesats included Nepal's first satellite, NepaliSat-1 and Sri Lanka's first satellite, Raavana-1. The third cubesat, Uguisu, is from Japan. 

The cubesats arrived at the ISS earlier in April on board Northrop Grumman's Cygnus cargo spacecraft as part of 7,600 lbs. (3,447 kilograms) of supplies for the Expedition 59 crew, which included science experiments and other cargo.

Related: Cubesats: Tiny, Versatile Spacecraft Explained (Infographic) 

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The three Cubesats being released into low Earth orbit

The three Cubesats are released into low Earth orbit.
(Image credit: NASA)
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The three Cubesats being released into low Earth orbit

The three Cubesats are released into low Earth orbit.
(Image credit: NASA)
Image 3 of 7

The three Cubesats being released into low Earth orbit

The three Cubesats are released into low Earth orbit.
(Image credit: Nick Hague/NASA)
Image 4 of 7

The three Cubesats being released into low Earth orbit

The three Cubesats are released into low Earth orbit.
(Image credit: Nick Hague/NASA)
Image 5 of 7

The three Cubesats being released into low Earth orbit

One of the three cubesats is pictured shortly after being released into low Earth orbit.
(Image credit: Nick Hague/NASA)
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The three Cubesats being released into low Earth orbit

One of the cubesats crosses in front of the space station's solar arrays.
(Image credit: NASA)
Image 7 of 7

The three Cubesats being released into low Earth orbit

The three Cubesats are released into low Earth orbit.
(Image credit: Nick Hague/NASA)

The cubesats will send short, ciphered messages on their radio-frequency band as well as collect data, such as monitoring water levels in flood-prone areas and conducting measurements of Earth's magnetic field, according to The International Amateur Radio Union. 

The mission is the first of its kind to deploy small satellites from an orbiting space station, according to a statement from NASA. The agency added that the JSSOD can deploy the satellites to space as well as bring back small objects and samples to Earth for testing and analysis.

Three crewmembers aboard the ISS, Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques and Oleg Kononenko, returned to Earth today (June 24) after completing their time aboard the station, according to NASA.

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