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Aerospace Enterprise Takes a Bronze at Nanosat 3
For more information on this story contact:
Email:Marcia Goodrich
Phone:906/487-2343


Jan. 17, 2005--Michigan Tech's Aerospace Enterprise excelled at the recent University Nanosat 3 competition, finishing third among 13 teams, many representing universities with well-established aerospace engineering programs.

The team's "HuskySat" satellite placed third in the Jan. 9 event and was one of only three entries judged to be "flyable," or capable of successfully completing its mission.

In the competition, which kicked off two years ago, all the teams set out to design and build very small satellites, or nanosats, with the goal of seeing them launched into orbit. The sponsors were the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Air Force Research Labs Space Vehicles Directorate.

In addition to building a satellite that will survive launch and maintain an orbit around the earth, the MTU students also assembled a complex payload. It is designed to measure how much wireless electronic "pollution" will interfere with scientific measurements relating to climate change.

The team's advisor, Brad King, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics, credits the third-place finish to the team's dogged tenacity.

"About 15 of them gave up their Christmas holiday vacations to stay up here and put the final touches on," he said. "For an undergrad, that's about the ultimate sacrifice. And even then, we weren't ready, so the students traveled to Reno with an entire lab."

They recreated their MTU laboratory in a Reno hotel room. "We had an oscilloscope, power supplies, drills and power tools, wiring equipment and at least five computers," King said. "It looked like one of those movies where the CIA moves into a hotel room. Everything seems normal in the hallways, and then you go into the room and have this high-tech laboratory where everything is beeping and clicking.

"We were staying in a casino where they should have had a lot of fun, but instead they worked continuously three days and nights."

King was especially impressed by the team's showing against very strong competition. "We were up against schools like the University of Michigan, which has the top aerospace engineering program in the nation and has had students building spacecraft for about 30 years. When the competition started, schools like that had a leg up, while we started with a blank slate. We had to invent everything."

That determination paid off, and the MTU team did have HuskySat ready to show the judges. The first and second place schools, the University of Texas at Austin and Washington University, also arrived with completed vehicles. In addition, they had finished about a month ahead of MTU and undertaken a number of tests on their entries, which earned them additional points.

"They were deemed further along," King said. The time frame proved to play a critical role in Nanosat 3, he added. "That's what killed most of the other schools. Two years to build a satellite isn't a lot of time."

Only the winner is guaranteed the chance to see their satellite sent into orbit. However, King said, HuskySat may be launched by the Department of Defense, if space and funding are available.

Michigan Tech's Enterprise Program gives teams of students the opportunity to participate in real-world settings to solve engineering, manufacturing, and design problems supplied by industry partners. The program prepares students for the challenges that await them after their college careers, and gives new perspectives to sponsors, businesses, and organizations who participate as partners.

The photo was taken by Will Rice and is reproduced courtesy of the Daily Mining Gazette.

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