Portland State Aerospace Society announced a major milestone on March 6 after receiving approval from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for its CubeStat Launch Initiative titled, “The Oregon Satellite Project,” or “OreSat,” which is set to launch into orbit from the International Space Station between 2019 and 2020.
OreSat’s approval allows PSAS members the opportunity to design, build, and launch Oregon’s first small satellite ever while simultaneously breaking new ground for aeronautics, aerospace, and climate change research.
NASA revealed the selections for the eighth round of CSLI on Feb. 17, 2017 and OreSat was selected as one of seven first picks among 36 total satellites chosen from 19 states to participate.
Created in 2010, NASA’s CSLI provides an opportunity for nonprofit organizations, educational universities, institutions and NASA centers to launch their own CubeSat into space through existing launch dates intended for government payloads.
CubeSats belong to a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites and are intended to be used for scientific investigation and educational progression within “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” or STEM departments throughout the United States.
PSAS submitted its proposal for OreSat to NASA in 2016 under the direction of PSU adjunct professor Andrew Greenberg, and PSAS Control Board members Marie House and Aaron Baker as primary student contacts. Fellow researchers from Oregon State University and University of Oregon also teamed up with PSAS to develop OreSat’s tertiary mission initiative.
“First and foremost, OreSat’s primary mission is to function as a vehicle for STEM outreach,” Greenberg said, echoing OreSat’s written proposal after a PSAS meeting on March 7, where many members were buzzing with excitement from the project’s recent success.
OreSat’s STEM outreach, “Satellite Networked Operational Ground Station,” involves the distribution of blueprints, kits, or full units of ground stations to K–12 Oregon schools. Each ground station costs less than $50 and provides students with an opportunity to develop STEM interests.
As OreSat passes overhead, students can connect their ground station to the satellite in order to access satellite data and a quick snap shot, or “space selfie,” of the students themselves. PSAS installed a “DxWiFi,” which will allow OreSat to break the world record for the furthest transmitted WiFi signal to date.
OreSat’s second mission also involves using a camera, the “Cirrus Flux Cam,” contributed by Dr. Greg Bothum and Eryn Congi from UO Physics in order to research the global impact of cirrus clouds regarding climate change. OreSat’s proposal to NASA explained how cirrus clouds are generally invisible but “are capable of absorbing infrared heat, a basic mechanism of global warming.”
PSAS expects the third mission, “Open Technology,” to break even more records by using three technologies on satellite for the first time: DxWiFi, Alta Devices Single-Junction CVD Solar Technology, and the OreSat Bus. All three technologies complement the precision and research expected for CubeSat functionality and classification.
CubeSats are easily assisted into space because they are designed to be cube-shaped, compact, and lightweight, generally weighing less than three pounds with a volume of about one quart.
However, weight efficiency also occurs in the nanosatellite’s use of solar cells to convert solar energy into electricity. OreSat’s solar technology will provide an opportunity to test Gallium Arsenide solar cells, a chemical vapor deposition, for the first time in space.
The OreSat Bus is designed to replace standard CubeSat technology with an open source, modular card and backplane system, allowing CubeSats to scale between different unit sizes and house additional provisions for satellite functionality.
OreSat’s design, production and testing has been developed by PSAS student and faculty members who hail from a variety of departments including business, engineering, physics, architecture and biology. “Everyone should be able to work together,” said PSAS member, Risto Rushford.
OreSat is expected to be ready for launch in February 2019. For more information on PSAS membership or OreSat, visit psas.pdx.edu.