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Four Satellites Due to Launch Nov. 19!

Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010

On Friday, Nov. 18 at 5:24 pm PST, an Air Force rocket is scheduled to launch from Kodiak Alaska, deploying four satellites that are part of the SCU Robotics Systems Laboratory (RSL) program, announced RSL Director, Christopher Kitts.

The first satellite, O/OREOS, is a NASA Ames Research Center biological sciences spacecraft that SCU students will control for one year. The second, NanoSail-D2, is a NASA Marshall Space Flight Center test of solar sail technology which SCU students will monitor for about two weeks. The last two satellites, FASTRAC A and B, are student-designed satellites created in collaboration with colleagues and students at UT Austin; all of the flight computers on board FASTRAC are SCU designed.  FASTRAC will demonstrate several satellite formation flying technologies.

The NASA satellites will be controlled from SCU's Satellite Mission Control Room in the School of Engineering, using an antenna suite on top of the Bannan Engineering Building which includes two parabolic dishes and a dual Yagi antenna suite. In addition, automated receive-only communication stations installed across the country will relay satellite status data back to SCU mission control via the Internet. 

"It is worth noting," said Kitts, "that SCU is the only university in the country that provides comprehensive mission control and distributed communications network services to NASA with a student operations team. The student operations team consists of students ranging from freshman to doctoral candidates, and students operating the spacecraft are trained and certified by enrolling for academic credit in a novel 'Satellite Operations Laboratory' course (which includes the control of a real NASA satellite as the lab exercise!).  Student involvement beyond operating the satellites includes engineering development of the control network, ranging from undergraduates working on senior capstone projects to graduate students working on thesis research." Kitts also notes that while NASA is supporting students to perform some of this work, much of the engineering infrastructure the Lab uses for this purpose has been funded through grants ranging from internal support from SCU's Technology Steering Committee to external research projects funded by the National Science Foundation.

Barring a launch delay, the  Lab plans to hold a launch party on Friday evening starting around 5 pm in the Mission Control Room area; live video from the launch site will be available for monitoring activities.  For the NASA missions, the Lab maintains two public 'dashboards' providing information on the status of the spacecraft and their experiments.  Over the past week alone, these dashboard web pages have received more than 36,000 page views:

O/OREOS Dashboard

NanoSail-D2 Dashboard

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