Mighty SatThe end of an Air Force technology satellite known as Mightysat-1 has resulted in the beginning of an exciting new program in spacecraft hardware applications for students in the Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics (ASE/EM) Department. Mightysat-1 was placed into orbit by the Air Force in 1998 to demonstrate new spacecraft technologies. A professional ground station with a high gain antenna dish was used to communicate with the satellite. When the satellite’s orbit decayed in 1999, the ground station was not needed anymore and it was mothballed by the Air Force.

Dr. Glenn Lightsey, an Assistant Professor in the ASE/EM Department, approached the Air Force about the ground station and got the equipment donated to the school. The tracking station was installed on the roof of the W.R. Woolrich building in late 2002, and it can now be used to track and communicate with many Earth orbiting satellites. It is part of a spacecraft hardware program being introduced in the department’s new Texas Spacecraft Lab (TSL).

The TSL was created in 2001 to provide hands-on experience for students with space flight hardware. Last year, undergraduate students working in the TSL designed, built, and flew an amateur rocket payload known as CanSat. The TSL has just been selected by the University Nanosatellite program (which is also offered by the Air Force & NASA) to have students design and build a pair of satellites which will fly in space in a formation. If the satellites are selected from a national competition, they will be launched on the Space Shuttle in 2005.

 

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