NASA Helps Launch Student-Built Satellites

By  //  November 21, 2013

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PhoneSat Part of CubeSat Launch Initiative

NASA.gov – Nine university teams and one high school team will experience on Tuesday a feat that few outside the aerospace industry will ever realize: watching the nanosatellites, or cubesats, that they designed and built launch into space.

NASA selected 10 educational institutions to design and build CubeSats for ELaNa IV. (NASA.gov image)

NASA selected 10 educational institutions to design and build CubeSats for ELaNa IV. (NASA.gov image)

An addition to the NASA PhoneSat technology demonstration will also be aboard.

More than 300 students took part in this fourth installment of NASA’s cubesat Launch Initiative and it’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellite (ELaNa) Missions, which enables students, teachers and faculty to obtain hands-on flight hardware development experience.

This launch marks the first time NASA will launch a cubesat developed by students not yet in college – high school students from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology of Alexandria, Va.

Asha Punnoose beams next to TJ3Sat, a the first CubeSat to be built by high school students and launched into space through NASA's ELaNA program. (NASA.gov)

Asha Punnoose beams next to TJ3Sat, a the first CubeSat to be built by high school students and launched into space through NASA’s ELaNA program. (NASA.gov)

Since 2010, the cubesat Launch Initiative has issued four announcements of opportunity and selected more than 90 cubesats from public and private institutions and government labs to launch as auxiliary payloads aboard commercial rockets. The cube-shaped satellites are approximately four inches long per unit, have a volume of about one quart and weigh less than three pounds. Cubesat research addresses science, exploration, technology development, education or operations.

PHONESAT AS PART OF CUBESAT LAUNCH INITIATIVE

In many cases, student teams are able to connect with mentors in the aerospace industry to help them develop their cubesats. Twyman Clements of Kentucky Space LLC, is mentor to the ELaNa IV KySat-2 team comprising students from the University of Kentucky and Morehead State University.

University of New Mexico Students inspect their CubeSat, Trailblazer. (NASA.gov image)

University of New Mexico Students inspect their CubeSat, Trailblazer. (NASA.gov image)

“There’s an enormous sense of accomplishment,” he says.

“Not just in designing with a great team but also encouraging the students to take the initiative and learn their areas of strength to become better students – and much more importantly, better professionals. There’s nothing like an impending satellite launch to motivate you.”

Success of the ELaNa missions has also helped universities to secure funding for future projects.

University of Kentucky students Alex Clements and Jason Rexroat conduct final CubeSat acceptance measurements on KYSat-2, a collaborative project between the University of Kentucky and Morehead State University. (NASA.gov image)

University of Kentucky students Alex Clements and Jason Rexroat conduct final CubeSat acceptance measurements on KYSat-2, a collaborative project between the University of Kentucky and Morehead State University. (NASA.gov image)

According to Craig Kief, Deputy Director of the Configurable Space Microsystems Innovations & Applications Center (COSMIAC), “ELaNa has proven to be a game-changing endeavor.

It has allowed us to be able to show past performance in the areas of nanosatellite development.  This achievement has easily resulted in over $1M in future research projects for the University of New Mexico.”

The 11 ELaNa IV cubesats are scheduled to launch aboard the Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Minotaur-1 rocket on Nov. 19, between 7:30-9:30 p.m. EST.

Over the next few months, they will receive data from their satellites in space. As part of their agreement with NASA, they will provide NASA a report on their outcomes and scientific findings.


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