By 2019 at the latest, the University of Georgia will have its very own satellite in orbit. A group of 28 UGA undergraduates working at the Small Satellite Research Laboratory plan to launch two satellites into low-earth orbit over the course of the next few years, and they’re taking applications.
“The goal of the lab is to give UGA a continuous presence in space,” said Caleb Adams, chief manager and founder of the Small Satellite Research Laboratory. “We have our very own space agency at UGA because of this.”
The Small Satellite Research Laboratory is an entirely student-run organization started in 2016 which plans to launch two satellites into space with the goal of monitoring environmental conditions in coastal Georgia according to one of the laboratory's faculty advisors, Deepak Mishra. The organization is looking for applicants from students of all majors from physics and geography to graphic design.
“The students have a system set up to invite applicants,” Mishra said. “Undergraduate students conduct interviews and select candidates … anyone can apply.”
Adams said the organization primarily looks for passion when choosing applicants to be involved in the program.
“One of the unique things [about this program] is we don’t look for talent … our process is about getting people who are passionate,” Adams said.
According to Adams, passionate students often have more potential to grow and ultimately succeed even if they are not always the most qualified candidates who applied.
He said the students who work for the laboratory are passionate about space and spend their free time thinking about the problems the laboratory faces and how to overcome those problems.
Adams said he also hopes the laboratory is a place that students involved with the program can have fun when not working on sending satellites into space.
"It's really fun to be honest. Once we're here, we spend a lot of time here. We have a Nintendo 64 in the lab because we like having fun," Adams said. "You should like what you do and who you do it with."
Last semester the Small Satellite Research Laboratory received 156 applicants from undergraduate students with only around 10 students being accepted to work with the program according to Adams. This semester the program is looking to accept about 10 more.
The application process is broken up into three parts including an initial online application and an interview. Applicants must also complete a technical interview which involves completing technical tasks which are needed by the laboratory.
These technical tasks vary depending on major and expertise of an applicant. According to Mishra the laboratory is currently seeking students who have a special talent in optics.
The deadline for spring-semester applicants is Jan. 13.
Adams said the ultimate goal of the project was to produce research. The Small Satellite Research Laboratory works alongside the Air Force and NASA, who they report to on a regular basis.
Adams said the organization's first satellite will launch in either 2018 or 2019 with the second satellite projected to launch sometime around 2020.
Through the data collected by the satellite students hope to help communities in coastal Georgia understand how local resources will be affected by climate change.
The small satellites operate for approximately a year at a time and the organization hopes that UGA will have a continuous presence in space going forward.
Students interested in applying can do so at the Small Satellite Lab's website.