PROVO, Utah (ABC4 News) – A spacecraft “selfie cam” is the fun name given to a 10×10-centimeter CubeSat, a type of square satellite only 3.6 inches square.
“It’s a satellite that is designed to take pictures of another satellite,” said BYU engineering professor David Long. “In other words, it’s a spacecraft selfie cam.”
The space-faring device, which took 60 students over five years to get ready, has cameras on all six sides of the cube. Its purpose is to inexpensively detect damage on a space-craft that can’t be seen in other ways.
According to a release from BYU, Two versions of the BYU CubeSat will join satellites from eight other universities as part of NASA’s ELaNA20 mission. Virgin Galactic’s “Cosmic Girl” spacecraft is set to take the tiny space cubes into space.
ELaNA means “Educational Launch of NanoSatellites.”
The BYU CubeSats are part of a group called nanosatellites. They will be loaded into various tube-style dispensers and are shot into space with a pressurized spring. Think about it like a high-tech dart gun or a Pez dispenser in space.
The second BYU’s “space selfie cams” hit space, they will boot and start recording video. Antenna’s triggered later will start up and then send the video data back to earth, specifically Provo.
“That’s the No. 1 thing I can’t wait to see: those antennas scanning across the sky, watching for satellites,” said BYU grad student Patrick Walton. “There will be a bunch of us in the Engineering Building waiting in front of a screen, looking for a signal to show up on a little graph, and we’ll be ecstatic when we see it.”
If it all works, space ‘selfie cam’ should be impressive. The tiny intricate satellite is a first for BYU’s College of Engineering.
The diminutive satellite packs giant tech. Six solar panels, six cameras, four battery circuit boards, a radio circuit board, a computing board, and believe it or not, 25 cables. BYU’s engineers say that is four times as many as your desktop and only a sixth the size.
“It’s pretty small, but even the simplest spacecraft can be quite complex,” Long said.