LOGAN, Utah (ABC4) – Members of Utah State University’s Get Away Special Team are waiting eagerly for Jan. 24 so that they can watch in amazement as their very own satellite deploys from the ISS at 3:20 a.m.
The satellite, named GASPACS (Get Away Special Passive Attitude Control Satellite), which looks like a small four-square-inch cube, was visible aboard the International Space Station this past week.
“It’s crazy to think our CubeSat is up there,” says Jack Danos, undergraduate coordinator of the student-led space research team. “This is not only the GAS Team’s first satellite sent into space; it’s Utah’s first solely undergraduate-built CubeSat — one of the first student-built satellites in the nation to launch into orbit.”
Danos, along with his fellow team members who dedicated years to this project, will be watching their little cube venture from the mothership through a live-streamed video while actually communicating with the satellite as well.
“During NASA’s shuttle program, GAS team members launched experiments into space that were returned to them and they could retrieve collected data back on Earth,” Danos says. “That’s not the case here. GASPACS won’t return from space, so we had to build communications capability inside it to transmit data back to us, while it’s carrying out its mission.”
GAS Team members will be able to receive data from an antenna they’ve assembled on top of USU’s Dean F. Peterson Engineering Laboratory Building.
“We have been working hard on our ground station equipment and software to ensure we are ready to communicate with our satellite,” he says. “We couldn’t be more excited.”
One of GASPACS more unique features is its novel inflatable boom that addresses key challenges in deploying structures in space. The boom works by using restoring torque to maintain the satellite’s altitude without a power source, while remaining inflated by the difference in pressure between travel from Earth’s atmosphere and space. Team members will be making a special effort to catch a glimpse of their satellite’s inflated boom on Jan. 24.
“Without the boom, the satellite would slowly spin as it orbits, but the small amount of air still present in low-Earth orbit allows the satellite, equipped with the boom, to aerodynamically stabilize,” he says. “You can imagine these principles — a compact design that expands in space and a passive control solution that requires no power sources — being applied to much larger structures needed for space exploration and research.”
The satellite is expected to fly like an arrow on Earth, with the inflated boom trailing behind.
GASPACS deployment marks roughly 20 years since the GAS Team has set an experiment into space.
For more information on the Get Away Special Team’s tremendous accomplishment, click here.