A team from the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA) that is currently in residence at Wright Lab to build a CubeSat research satellite to detect cosmic rays has been chosen by NASA as one of 16 teams across the country whose CubeSats will be flown into space as auxiliary payloads on space missions planned to launch in 2020, 2021 and 2022. It will be the first ever Yale undergraduate endeavor to launch a spacecraft, forging the path for even more ambitious space-based projects by Yale undergraduates in the future.
According to the NASA press release, the YUAA project, called Bouchet Low-Earth Alpha/Beta Space Telescope (BLAST), “is a scientific investigation mission to map the distribution of galactic cosmic radiation across the night sky. The satellite will identify and count alpha particles and beta particles in the rays, and measure the radiation energy around Earth. BLAST will contribute to the ongoing search for the origins and nature of these rays, which will provide insight into the origins of the universe.”
This semester, the YUAA team is transitioning from R&D and preparation work to prototyping and final construction work on the satellite. In January 2019, the team began using one of Wright Lab’s clean rooms to conduct tests on launch-ready components, such as the altitude control systems. The team will also use the facility for final assembly of the satellite. In addition, the Wright Lab community is available to the team for advice and guidance about the project during their residency here.
The YUAA CubeSat project is an undergraduate-run project, currently in its 4th year. Led in previous years by Betsy Li ’18, Michael van der Linden ’19, and Kathan Roberts ’20, the project is currently led by Keshav Raghavan ’21. The team is receiving extra guidance and assistance from Senior Engineers Milo Brandt and YUAA co-president Andrew Krzywosz. Project Seconds are Claire Laffan ’21 (Alpha/Beta Detector Payload), Michael Linden ’21 (Power and Solar Systems), Annie Polish ’21 (Radio Communications), Wright Lab undergraduate Lukas Baker ’21 (Mechanical Design; Sensing and Control), and Jackson Petty ’21 (Computer Systems and Programming). Senior research scientist and CEID Design Mentor Larry Wilen serves as the faculty mentor for the project as a whole and Wright Lab Associate Director for Instrumentation and Education James Nikkel is providing additional mentorship to the team at Wright Lab.
According to the YUAA website, “CubeSats are miniature satellites first developed by California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University in 1999. Intended as a standard, inexpensive design that can easily fit alongside larger satellites aboard launch vehicles, the CubeSat model has given student groups, hobbyist organizations, and research teams operating with limited funding or experience unprecedented access to space. CubeSats are built from a modular structure of 10x10x10cm cubes (hence the name), and feature a wide variety of commercially available off-the-shelf components designed to fit the structure from various manufacturers. Since the program’s adoption, hundreds of universities, companies, and research teams have followed the design standard and successfully launched their own CubeSats conducting space exploration, scientific research, and technology development. “