LOGAN, Utah (ABC4) – This morning, NASA and SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 rocket to deliver more than 6,500 lbs. of supplies to the International Space Station. One piece of that cargo is a small satellite built by students from Utah State University. A few of those students spoke to ABC4 after a successful launch.

“It’s maybe not the traditional thing to do on your Christmas break,” Jack Danos stated. Danos is a senior at USU and has been on the Get Away Special (GAS) team since he was a freshman. He is now the student coordinator for GAS. All the students on the team (past and present) are undergrads.  

“I think for a lot of us it’s been kind of a dream, like maybe one day maybe we could put something in space but definitely not this soon,” Danos told ABC4.  

The students are able to do this thanks to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. This program, according to NASA, “provides opportunities for small satellite payloads built by universities, high schools and non-profit organizations to fly on upcoming launches. Through innovative technology partnerships NASA provides these CubeSat developers a low-cost pathway to conduct scientific investigations and technology demonstrations in space, thus enabling students, teachers and faculty to obtain hands-on flight hardware development experience.” 

The USU satellite is small. According to the students, it’s a small cube that measures four inches by four inches by four inches. “It’s a technology demonstration for an inflatable structure in space, so it’s going to deploy this meter long thing called a boon that sticks out from the satellite that should stabilize the satellite in space,” Danos explained.  

It’s an astronomical dream that started in 2013 when many of the current students working on the satellite were still in grade school.   

Tuesday morning, weather nearly kept that dream from becoming a reality. “It’s been so cool to come together as a team and push through those trials that we had, especially as we were getting ready for launch,” team leader Shawn Joes told ABC4. “We had several problems come up that could have been mission over, but we just bonded together as a team.”  

“There’s a common phrase in the space industry: ‘per aspera ad astra,’” team leader Ben Lewis added. “It’s Latin and it means ‘to the stars through adversity or through trials,’ and I think being a part of this team I got to really experience that concept. It was a hard thing to do, there was a lot of work we had to put in, there was a lot of adversity, there were a lot of trials, but now we’re literally going to the stars.”  

The students’ satellite is now on the International Space Station and according to the students, it will go into orbit next month.   

“So how do you top this for the rest of your college career?” ABC4 Reporter Kade Garner asked the team after the launch. “Oh, you don’t,” Danos responded. As the team laughed Shawn Jones added: “You graduate.”  

The students told ABC4 they are thankful to all the different departments at USU that came together to fund their trip to Florida so they could watch their satellite be launched into space.