The satellites separated March 22 at 6:35 a.m. Central Standard Time. Now that they're apart, the 60-plus pound, tire-sized satellites will be able to perform the main goals of the project and could pave the way for more complex satellite missions that require real-time coordination between small satellites.
Traditionally, larger and expensive satellites have been commonplace in space missions but the satellites developed by more than 150 aerospace engineering graduate and undergraduate students could demonstrate the potential for space technology that's more affordable and accessible—a forward-looking approach that's attracted the interest of the Air Force and NASA.
The smaller satellites could also help prevent tragedies like the Columbia space shuttle disaster, which, unknown to the shuttle's crew, had a hole in the left wing that caused it to disintegrate upon reentry to the Earth's atmosphere Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven onboard.
"If they would have had the technology that could go outside the shuttle and inspect it, then the hole could have been discovered," Lightsey said.
The students, led by their faculty advisor Professor Glenn Lightsey, built the satellites over the course of seven years using a shoestring hardware budget of $250,000 — a small amount compared to the millions typically spent on spacecraft missions.
They were launched into orbit from Alaska's Kodiak Launch Complex in November, a moment that was considered the pinnacle of the students' years of work. But the real moment of truth came early Tuesday morning when they separated, said Lightsey.
"We had to work through some problems on the satellites to get the separation to occur, but the student-team figured out a way to get the command to work. I am very proud of all of them," said Lightsey. "We have achieved a true first in spacecraft engineering."
The satellites will collect scientific data and be able to report their location and proximity to each other to students and amateur radio operators tracking their orbit some 400 miles above.
The project is part of the University Nanosat-3 Program started in 2003 and sponsored by the Air Force. In January 2005, The University of Texas at Austin bested 11 other universities and won the program's grant-based competition to launch the FASTRAC satellites into space.
Melissa Mixon | EurekAlert!
Researchers achieve HD video streaming at 10,000 times lower power
20.04.2018 | University of Washington
An AI that makes road maps from aerial images
18.04.2018 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CSAIL
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy