November 21, 2013

CubeSats Launched


Scott: I have got Maggie here with me now. And you have got a pretty interesting story about some high school students in Virginia and a pretty awesome science project.

Maggie: Yeah, their project is so far out, literally. And to check in on it, we are counting down to blast off!

This week, a record-breaking 29 satellites were launched into space – the most ever launched at one time. They hitched a ride on a U.S. Air Force rocket called the Minotaur. And among them, another record, the first satellite ever designed and built by high school students. This satellite, built by students at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, is a type of nanosatellite called a CubeSat. At only inches wide and weighing under three pounds, CubeSats might not look like much but NASA says it could totally change the way we study space by providing a smaller, cheaper alternative for research work.

To make this record-breaking CubeSat launch a reality, NASA also got help from college students across the country. Students design the CubeSats, build them, launch them and even operate them while in space.

California Polytechnic State University representative: And that’s ultimately what engineering is about is that continual search for accomplishing bigger and greater things.

Maggie: And in this search, students develop skills that will serve both them and our country well after graduation.

Professor Jordi Puig-Suari: And it is also beyond the space industry. We have students that work for computer companies. They go work on phones or work on biomedical companies. But the systems integration and the hands-on experience that they receive is valuable everywhere.

Maggie: More than just a little box way up in space, CubeSats are changing the way students and NASA see the galaxy.

NASA says many of the CubeSats made it into orbit in under 13 minutes and they are now operating as planned, including the one built by high school students.

Scott: That is pretty cool!


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