When Professor Jack Crabtree assembled the satellite ground station in the Space Systems lab, he assembled it in the hope that one day, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University would be able to engage in an EalgeSat project to design, build, and launch a student made satellite into orbit. These plans are now beginning to come true when NASA chose a proposal from the Prescott campus in early March for a launch in early 2016. EagleSat was chosen to be one of 24 satellites that will fly as an auxiliary payload aboard rockets in 2014 to 2016. Consequently, the satellite could launch even sooner.
The proposals which were submitted to NASA under the CubeSat Launch Initiative required satellites that are cube-shaped, four inches on a side, and weigh less than three pounds. The ERAU team will be designing two payloads. Payload A will test the viability of new memory types in space, by assessing whether or not data was corrupted due to radiation. Payload B will focus on detection of the Lockheed Martin Space Fence. This “fence” covers the United States at a certain altitude. It is the team’s goal to use Payload B to detect the fence when it is passing through, and mark the time and position of passing.
This is a long process, which will not end with the launch in 2016. In order to design the satellite, student teams will have to design power supply, radio, and solar systems for the EagleSat. After the launch, students will have to analyze the data that they receive from the satellite, and correlate it with the expected findings. The project’s long term nature has involved students who have already graduated, like former program manager Michael Matyas, and will involve students who have not yet enrolled in the future. The EagleSat, under the mentorship of Crabtree, is likely to become an ERAU legacy project, that will need to be passed down between generations of students to realize its full potential.