April 9, 2019 – An undergraduate team of scientists at Yale University led by Indian-American Keshav Raghavan is designing a miniature satellite which has been chosen by NASA for launch on space missions in the coming years.
Raghavan leads the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA). Its team members are currently working at the Wright Lab to build a CubeSat research satellite to detect cosmic rays. It is among 16 undergraduate teams across the country whose satellites will be flown into space as auxiliary payloads on space missions planned to launch in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
“It will be the first ever Yale undergraduate endeavor to launch a spacecraft, forging the path for even more ambitious space-based projects by Yale students in the future,” Yale University announced on March 22nd.
The National and Space Administration (NASA) describes announced that YUAA’s project as a BLAST, short for Bouchet Low-Earth Alpha-Beta Space Telescope. It “is a scientific investigation mission to map the distribution of galactic cosmic radiation across the night sky. The satellite will identify and count alpha and beta particles in the rays, and measure the radiation energy around Earth. BLAST will contribute to the ongoing search for the origins and nature of these rays, which will provide insight into the origins of the universe.”
To date, the CubeSat launch Initiative has selected 176 missions from 39 states and launched 85 CubeSat missions as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) through NASA’s Launch Services Program.
Raghavan and his team mates have done the research and development work on miniature satellites, and this past summer, they begin proto-typing and final construction work on it. Last January they began using one of Wright Lab’s clean rooms to conduct tests on launch-ready components, such as the altitude control systems, Yale University announced. Wright Lab will be the team’s site for final assembly of the satellite.
YUAA has indicated that these miniature satellites were first developed by the California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University in 1999. “Intended as a standard, inexpensive design that can easily fit alongside larger satellites aboard launch vehicles, the CubeSat model has given student groups, hobbyist organizations, and research teams operating with limited funding or experience, unprecedented access to space,” YUAA embers write.
These miniature satellites are built from commercially-available materials and have a modular structure of 10x10x10cm cubes (hence the name). Hundreds of universities, companies and research teams have designed and launched their own CubeSats over the years. Unlike others, the Yale CubeSat project is run by undergraduates, run currently in its 4th year.