The Missouri Satellite (M-SAT) team at Missouri University of Science and Technology has been chosen as one of 11 teams nationwide to compete in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Nanosat 6 competition. The winning team will eventually see its spacecraft launched into orbit.
The Missouri S&T team has been granted $110,000 from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to build and develop the team’s two microsatellites, Missouri Rolla Satellite (MR-SAT) and Missouri Rolla Second Satellite (MRS-SAT). The satellites are designed to launch as a single unit, then separate and maintain a specific flight formation.
The M-SAT team, consisting of 43 engineering and science majors, plans to implement a recently developed orbit controller and a low-cost communication system between the two satellites, which will be put through a series of tests and simulations.
In 2007, the M-SAT team competed for the first time in the Nanosat competition, placing third.
For the upcoming competition, the team is improving upon flight software and thruster design. They are also keeping better documentation of the process.
Dr. Hank Pernicka is the team’s faculty advisor. “The key to winning a Nanosat competition is to demonstrate to AFRL that the mission has a high likelihood of success,” says Pernicka, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at S&T.
Five reviews will be conducted on the progress of the satellites. The first review, to be conducted this week, will examine the mission concept and verify the capabilities of the spacecraft. The final Flight Competition Review, where each team will power up a fully assembled spacecraft and computer control system, won’t occur until January 2011.
The winning team’s satellite will be sponsored by the AFRL to be launched simultaneously with a larger Department of Defense spacecraft into low Earth orbit.
Other universities competing in the Nanosat 6 competition include Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Tech and Washington University in St. Louis.
“This makes for a very challenging opportunity for the M-SAT team,” says Pernicka, “but we plan to win this time.”