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KU Leads Effort to Put State's First Satellite in Orbit

Tuesday, April 5, 2005
 [KUTESat view]

Students and faculty at the University of Kansas School of Engineering expect to launch what will be the first satellite designed, built and launched into space by the state of Kansas.

The Kansas Universities Technology Evaluation Satellite (KUTESat) program has developed a pico-satellite that will help accomplish space missions. The pico-satellite, known as a CubeSat, is a 10-centimeter cube that weighs less than 2.2 pounds. The CubeSat's standard design allows for information to be shared freely among satellite development teams.

Pico-satellites carried aboard larger spacecrafts may be used to inspect the main spacecraft and perform various other tasks. Fourteen CubeSats, including the one from KU, will be launched from Kazakhstan with a larger satellite.

Trevor Sorensen, associate professor of aerospace engineering, is in charge of the project.

"The University of Kansas has a world-class reputation as an aircraft design university, but we are relatively unknown in space," Sorenson said. "This will help a lot for being able to attract more students, particularly graduate students that want to work in space - and, eventually attract more faculty."

Fewer than 50 universities around the world have started designing CubeSats. These universities consider the project an important tool for students to learn about spacecraft and space science while contributing to research.

Two years ago, four graduate students began to work on the Pathfinder Mission, one phase of the KUTESat project. Since then, more than 20 students have participated in the program. Six graduate students and one undergraduate student are completing the mission.

Project manager and aerospace engineering graduate student Marco Villa knows that the KUTESat program will help prepare these students for future jobs.

"We are working with real companies that are pushing us to meet certain goals in a certain time frame," Villa said. "This gives the students a chance to see what it's like in the real world."

The KUTESat program is divided into three phases. During phase one, KU students will design, build and operate a CubeSat, called Pathfinder, which will be flown in low Earth orbit. In phase two, they will develop a miniature maneuvering control system for a future satellite. The prototype is scheduled to be tested this summer in a neutral gravity environment at NASs Johnson Space Center. The final phase, the MIST mission, will develop and simultaneously test prototype satellites.

Students get to work alongside companies such as Honeywell, Swales Aerospace, the Kansas Space Grant Consortium and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

For more information, go to http://www.ae.engr.ku.edu and follow the link for "Events and Announcements."

In addition to the current students, Leon Searl, an information resource manager at KU's Information and Telecommunication Technology Center, also participated. Students, their hometowns, majors, and, when available, parents and high schools attended are:

FRANKLIN COUNTY

From Pomona

Daniel Duda, junior in computer engineering, son of Ed and Jenifer Duda; home-schooled.

MARION COUNTY

From Marion

Ethan Good, master's degree student in aerospace engineering, son of Robert and Jonn Good; Marion High School.

HONG KONG

From Hong Kong

Wai Pang Yau, master's degree student in aerospace engineering, son of Kwon Chen Yeng.

INDIA

From Chenna, Tamil Nadu

Karthikeyan Varadarajan, master's degree student in computer science, son of Varadarajan Sundaresa and Savithiri Varadarajan.

From Hyderabad and New Delhi

Sriram Chadalavada, Hyderabad, master's degree student in computer science, son of CVR Mohan and C. Umarani, New Delhi.

Nikhil Paruchuri, master's degree student in electrical engineering, son of Jagdish and Sandhya Paruchuri.

ITALY

From Valsolda

Marco Villa, son of Allessandro Villa and Annamaria DelEra; doctoral student in aerospace engineering.

Story by Pauline Himmelwright



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