The Missouri Satellite (M-SAT) team at Missouri University of Science and Technology is one of 10 universities taking part in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Nanosat-7 competition. The winning team will eventually have its spacecraft launched into orbit.
The M-SAT team has received grants totaling $110,000 from AFRL to build and develop 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 once on orbit and maintain a specific flight formation.
More than 30 students are on the team, from freshmen to Ph.D. students. Some spend up to 20 hours per week on the project.
This is Missouri S&T’s third time to compete in the two-year design and build competition. The team placed third in 2007 and won Best Outreach in 2011.
This year’s design is unique in that it uses propulsion to guide the satellites. “No other university has flow with propulsion,” says Dr. Hank Pernicka, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the team’s faculty advisor. “We got very good feedback from the Air Force at our last design review.” Twelve M-SAT team members attended the review that was held in Utah in August.
The final review of the projects will take place in January 2013 when each team will power up its fully assembled spacecraft and computer control system. The winning team’s satellite will be sponsored by AFRL to be launched simultaneously with a larger Department of Defense spacecraft into low Earth orbit.
Other universities competing in the Nanosat-7 competition include Boston University, Georgia Tech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Maryland.
“The ultimate goal of the project is research. We’d like to get outside funding and research contracts,” says Pernicka. “But of course, winning would be nice.”