Student-designed NASA satellite to enter space in August


Photo Courtesy of the Aerospace Engineering at The University of Illinois Facebook Page

Undergraduate Aerospace Engineering students Rick Eason and Logan Power pose for a photo in front of their CubeSat satellite. The satellite will be loaded onto NASA’s SpaceX Dragon cargo ship that will fly to the International Space Station.

By Aliza Majid, Assistant News Editor

The University has delivered a CubeSat satellite to NASA’s launch service provider in Houston for the launch in August. 

The satellite will be placed in the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship that will fly to the International Space Station where it will be officially deployed in October. 

NASA’s CubeSat program provides miniature satellites to educational institutions in order to give students exposure to satellite technology through a low-cost initiative to provide these institutions with research opportunities. 

“It’s a standard size and shape which means that the person building the satellite doesn’t need to worry about the specifics and they can just focus on building the spacecraft,” said Rick Eason, senior in Engineering. “That really opened the door for a lot of development of inexpensive spacecraft that provide greater access to space for universities in particular.”

The satellite’s design is a simple box with a computer inside that will be attached to a robotic arm and will be deployed around mid-October to repair any detectors damaged in space by cosmic rays.

“These detectors are useful for lots of things including secure communications in space and just lots of optical experiments that can be done, but they get damaged in space by cosmic rays,” said Logan Power, a senior in Engineering. “So our experiment here is to determine whether or not we can repair those detectors by shooting them with lasers.”

The satellite has many components to ensure that it functions correctly, including the communication system, the computer coding process that allows the satellite to function and ensuring that the satellite body can survive the launch process.

The satellite had gone through various testing procedures in order to ensure that the communication system and overall function of the satellite performed smoothly before handing it over to NASA.

The team will be able to communicate with the satellite once again during launch and deployment in October and will be setting up at Talbot Laboratory with new equipment to ensure the process goes smoothly.

“The concept of knowing that something that you made is in space is incomparable,” Powers said. “It’s just a great feeling to know that you build something that’s going to go up in space and that it’s going to do useful things, but on the other hand, it’s a little gut-wrenching because you know there are no go backs — you cannot turn this in again.”

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