UK Student-Built Satellite Sends Data Back From Space


Radio sound: T-minus 10 minutes and counting.
Verify T-minus 10 minute limit checks a go. James Lumpp: For them to find they can actually
work on developing spacecraft and developing payloads that go up on the space station,
captures that, that child in all of us. Every kid is interested in dinosaurs and space. Mary Fralick: I have always been really interested
in aerospace, anything to do with airplanes, anything going into space, has always really
excited me. Then once I started I learned about the KySat-2 project, and how exciting
that was to be involved in something like a satellite actually going into orbit while
I was still in school and I thought that was an amazing opportunity. Alex Clements: With KySat-2, almost all of
the hardware was designed and built in-house. Morehead State designed the electrical power
system, UK worked on the command and data handling system, the frame, structure, and
then the camera system onboard. Mary Fralick: The satellite sends beacons,
every 15 seconds. It will tell us that it’s on, it will tell us what’s working, what’s
powered on, what’s powered off. Ground stations all over the world can pick up that kind of
data and send it to us. Jason Rexroat: We’ve collected 30 or 40 here
and then we’re getting emails every day from ham radio users in Russia, Japan, Argentina. Mary Fralick: So now we can start giving it
commands telling it to turn things on and off or take a picture. Jason Rexroat: Eventually we’ll be getting
pictures down and we’ll also be collecting sensor data showing the strength of the earth’s
magnetic field. We expect to get about a year, a year and a half of data out of it before
the batteries have degraded so much that they’re not really useable. Then the satellite itself
will most likely reenter the atmosphere and burn up after around 2 years just from the
orbit it’s in. It’s a 500-kilometer orbit, so it’s higher than the International Space
Station. But its still considered low earth orbit. James Lumpp: NASA is always engineering in
the extreme where the missions are very high profile, a lot of press, a lot of exposure,
a lot of people see your failures very dramatically if something doesn’t work. You have to get
things right, so the processes are very proven, very effective. So for the students to learn
those techniques and those processes wherever they go and work and whatever types of systems
and projects they work on in the future, having that ability they have to apply that rigorous
process of the design and review and getting things right and double checking everything
I think is going to help them in anything they do in the future. Jason Rexroat: On the inside it has a custom
avionics system, so I was in charge of the senior design group during my senior year
of college to build that system. So we completely designed the circuit board, we picked out
all the little processors, we populated it, soldered it all together and then wrote all
the program code for it. So it was very much an in-house, kind of flight computer that
we built. Alex Clements: I was very involved with designing
some of the 3-D printed parts. The Space Systems Lab actually has two 3-D printers. We iterated
on a part, a very small part for the camera system. I think went through 4 or 5 iterations
in an afternoon, Mary and myself working on that part, getting the sizing right. Jason Rexroat: There’s a definite volume challenge,
you’re trying to fit a certain number of circuit boards or batteries or radios or whatever
in a very small space. It’s also difficult from a mass perspective, just because you
are trying to get in under the exact weight that you need, so it turns into a pretty dense
system pretty quickly and you have to be careful with that. Alex Clements: Some of the satellites that
the government launches or bigger companies launch are the size of a school bus and we’re
fitting the same systems into one that’s 4 inches cubed, so that’s definitely a challenge. Mary Fralick: I would say the most challenging
part was the timeline, we were given a year before launch, to have a satellite built from
the ground up, and be ready to be inserted into the rocket and be deployed. So that was
quite a challenge, getting everyone to work together, working with Morehead State and
Kentucky Space, but I think that we beyond succeeded our goal. Radio sound: CM go for launch, copy that CM,
check step 101. Jason Rexroat: I guess in class we solve circuit
problems with no real end goal other than to get the homework grade or get a good grade
on the test. With this, the test was actually getting to fly in orbit. There’s a lot more
riding on whether or not that’s correct. Alex Clements: You have to be very confident
in your numbers, your design, your testing, so pulling that all together was a very important
part for all of us to take that theoretical stuff you learned in the classroom and put
it into a real world experience. Jason Rexroat: The most exciting moment was
launch. I was at Wallops flight facility last week, sitting in the grass at night watching
that rocket go up. It was a really cool moment just knowing that we’d made it, that we’d
made it past NASA’s stringent testing requirements, that we’d built it and it worked. Mary Fralick: And then, the first time it
passes over, when you hear, “oh yes, she’s on, she’s working!” That was probably the
most fulfilling moment. Jason Rexroat: everyone on a team has different
you know design goals so you kind of have to synthesize all that into a final realization,
a final system that will work. That’s the part that I really enjoyed, taking the design
and translating it from us describing or drawing on a whiteboard to an actual circuit board
or to an actual satellite that works. Mary Fralick: My biggest takeaway is that,
working with a team, you can really accomplish anything. We’ve had some fantastic students
on our team, a lot of help from Morehead State and from Kentucky Space, and working with
those different organizations and also the students in the lab here, I mean what the
students are capable of is truly impressive.

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