The University of Kansas KUbeSat organization is building a satellite which will be sent to space in December 2020 to collect data.
The group was formed in response to a NASA initiative called CubeSat which provides universities, high schools and nonprofit organizations the opportunity to launch small satellites into space. KUbeSat is the first organization in Kansas to work on the initiative.
“We’re building out this program. We’ve got the satellite, and now we’re working on integrating different payloads and doing all the legwork to get it into space,” said KUbeSat Vice President Bailey Miller.
The cube satellite is the size of a loaf of bread and will house three payloads — the technology on the satellite that collects data. The payloads will record data on transient luminous events (lightning that goes above the atmosphere instead of going down), help calibrate radio stations in Antarctica and observe cosmic rays bouncing off the earth.
“That information can be used for Ph.D. dissertations down the road or funding more expensive payloads later,” said KUbeSat President Arno Prinsloo. “The whole idea of the KUbeSat program is not just to launch this one satellite and say, ‘Hey, Kansas has done it. We’re done.’ The ultimate vision is to become the [Jayhawk Motorsports] version of the aerospace department.”
KUbeSat has received funding and part donations from multiple campus organizations and engineering alumni. Student Senate, PepsiCo Inc. and the School of Engineering Funding Advisory Committee have all contributed funding toward the project.
The organization hopes to integrate its hardware and payloads onto the satellite in January 2020 and have the entire project finished and tested by October 2020 in order to send it to Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California, for its launch.
KUbeSat hopes to continue the program after the initial launch in order to continue research and hopefully integrate more members of the community, such as Lawrence High School, into the project. The group hopes to launch a new satellite every two years.
“We want to make it a self-sustaining thing that will last for years,” Prinsloo said.
They also hope to move further into spacecraft development in the aerospace engineering program, where they’ve been more focused on aircraft development, Miller said.
Prinsloo and Miller encourage anyone who wants to join to be a part of the KUbeSat mission. They believe there is a space for everyone in the organization whether it be building the satellite, reaching out to organizations for funding or designing different models for the satellite.
“We really want to encourage everybody to be a part of it and to look towards space because, personally, I think space is the next frontier, and we really need to be pushing for it and putting things into space responsibly,” Miller said.
The KUbeSat satellite will be attached to a rocket in December 2020 to be sent to space as a SpaceX launch. Because each SpaceX launch is live streamed, the organization plans on having a launch party for its satellite.