EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Two years of hard work came to fruition Wednesday morning when students from USI watched their handmade satellite launched from the International Space Station.
The team was selected to design, build, and monitor the UNITE CUBE SAT satellite. The device is designed to measure plasma levels in the ionosphere, study the Earth’s orbit and measure temperature readings when the satellite re-enters the atmosphere.
“It was a lot of testing and development," said Ryan Loehrlein, a USI senior and assistant team leader on the UNITE project. "We were doing prototyping with the boards. We were outside in below freezing temperatures at times just making sure the satellite would work. So actually seeing it launch today and getting to see it launched into space it’s one of those things that...it’s hard to let go of it because we’ve been doing it so long.”
The team was approached by NASA with a $200,000 grant to build the satellite two years ago. The only condition was that the team was comprised of solely undergraduate students.
Loehrlein and his professor, Glen Kissel, said that there were plenty of speed bumps along the way.
“It actually caught on fire during October of 2017 so it put us behind for a couple months," Kissel said.
The design and construction was all phase one. Thursday begins phase two and the real purpose behind the CUBE SAT project.
For the next 15 months it will be gathering data and transmitting it back to the students so they can analyze the data.
According to Loehrlein, the experience and the payoff is indescribable.
“Hearing those words come from NASA it was, an absolute honor," Loehrlein said. "Don’t even really know how to explain that feeling that we got when they said that we are the model of perfection for the CUBE SAT Program right now.”
Team members say the CUBE SAT will provide important data to help future satellite makers.