Maybe you do this – work on the weekends because it is fun. Sometimes I enjoy taking my time to read through the emails my colleagues purposely save for the weekend. That way we can savor good news and accomplishments.
Here is a great accomplishment; Montana State University, Auburn Utah State and Michigan State launched Cube-Sat satellites on Friday October 28th at 5:30am MDT. You can watch the launch at http://www.cubesat.org/. The satellites are launched in the same launcher, called a P-POD (Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer). The Cube-Sats are 10x10x10cm in size. If you go to the website and watch the video, you can see the deployment of the satellites. They were launched on a Delta 2 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force base in California.
In 1998, Bob Twiggs, a professor at Stanford University, began a program to provide students affordable platforms for designing and deploying satellites from rockets as “hitchhiker” payloads. The military uses this platform today as do many countries.
When we met for the workshop in LaJoya thirteen years ago, Bob explained how the Cube-Sat could help students design research experiments and launch them as groups of small satellites. These small satellites could act as a constellation of satellites and eventually fly in tandem to replace some of the larger satellites being retired.
Now, literally hundreds of Cube-Sats are in orbit, investigating earthquake modeling, space weather phenomenon, demonstrating technologies for more complex and larger satellites. Professor Twiggs turned most of the intellectual property over to students to enable them to build a business, which they have done. Jordi Puig-Suari, became the faculty advisor for this part of the enterprise, and he spoke here in 2009 at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight.
The Director of the Montana Space Grant Program wrote today, Saturday October 29th, to tell us that several HAM radio operators in the UK, France, and the Netherlands have heard the beacon loud and clear on their satellite. Over 125 students in Montana worked on the project.
You can build your own Cube-Sat if you want, go to http://www.cubesatkit.com/. In my work as Director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, we are supporting two teams in New Mexico to build Cube-Sats. One team is partnering with the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), the team at New Mexico State is just getting started, they too are being helped by AFRL. This is the direction of the space industry, smaller is better, faster, cheaper and more accessible.
Getting to orbit for students is a big deal. Six satellites in orbit for one NASA student program is unusual – some countries have not accomplished this yet.
Those of you who follow the work we do with student experiments here in New Mexico know, when we sent 27 experiments to space last May that was a mighty big deal. Yet, getting 6 satellites into orbit, it’s a bigger deal indeed. I was so proud of NASA for supporting this work, helping us get the launch vehicle, getting all the help to integrate all the experiments and get them turned on and working. What a wonderful way to begin the start of the Thanksgiving season.
So imagine my surprise when I saw emails this morning about the NASA Education Program not recognizing the accomplishments of the Space Grant program. In less than 24 hours, from orbit to the dumps. Now I realize, again, we work on difficult problems and projects because we want to. If we worked because we wanted recognition we’d probably never get anything done.
I wrote my colleagues, and copied the NASA Associate Administrator for Education, suggested we all figure out how to get a win win here. How do we recognize each other’s good works? How much more work is it to acknowledge each other? Or ask the question another way, have you ever tried to ignore someone’s superior work? It takes effort.
So, I suggest when you can, recognize accomplishments. Congratulations to all the people who made the NMSU Homecoming great this year. Thank you Las Cruces for supporting the Honor Flights for veterans. Congratulations to KRWG on the Fall Fundraising Campaign, and great work on Cinco de Pink. All the NASA White Sands Test Facility folks and WSMR people who help us succeed in our space program, you are the best. That was not hard at all.
We are planning the next launch campaign and we have new partners with NASA’s Flight Opportunities Office. I’ll keep you posted.