Due to a decision made by the United States Air Force, a group of University of Georgia students are closer to space than ever before.
The UGA Small Satellite Research Laboratory has been chosen among 10 other universities to build and launch a satellite into space.
“This is without a doubt one of the coolest projects happening on the UGA campus,” said Alan Dorsey, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
The student-led team, comprised of approximately 45 faculty and student members from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering, worked for two years to build two CubeSats, satellites specifically designed for low Earth orbit.
CubeSats are a “specialized class of miniaturized satellite that can be deployed more cheaply than larger spacecraft,” while still allowing for significant data to be collected, according to the UGA Today press release.
This achievement came after two years of work designing and developing a proposed spacecraft. Ten different universities throughout the nation designed individual spacecrafts that would be judged in comparison with the spacecraft built by the UGA team. This competition is part of the U.S. Air Force’s Research Laboratory University Nanosatellite Program.
The satellite the team created is known as MOCI, short for Multi-view Onboard Computational Imager. The device has a built-in camera, which will capture photos of the Earth’s surface that will later be used to create 3-D models of structures on Earth.
“Only the most promising designs and teams" will continue to the next sector of the competition, which is the integration and testing of the university’s spacecraft, the press release said.
UGA and the University of Colorado Boulder were the only two schools selected to test their spacecrafts.
“This review puts the University of Georgia on the map in regards to space systems and we are pushing for an even larger goal of getting a UGA made satellite to space,” said David Cotten, assistant research scientist and project advisor, in the press release. “Not only did the students impress everyone with their communication abilities and their personalities but also with their skills and knowledge of the field.”
The UGA team is expected to build and deliver the satellite to the Air Force Research Laboratory within the next two years. The satellite will be used for space exploration, a task that has never been accomplished by a group from UGA before.
“A student-led effort to design and build a satellite that will go into orbit is an extraordinary testament to the passion and commitment of our students,” said Dorsey in the press release. “Their level of scientific creativity and intellectual engagement demonstrates a real zeal for the mission to go to space that reflects very highly on our college and the university.”