It’s all systems go for SPACE HAUC, a miniature satellite designed and built by UMass Lowell (UML) students for NASA that was sent to the International Space Station who launched it into the Earth’s orbit on Sunday, Aug. 29.
Funded by a $200,000 grant from the space agency, the satellite was designed, built and managed by more than 100 students from UML’s Francis College of Engineering; Kennedy College of Sciences; College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; and Manning School of Business over the past five years. UML Physics Prof. Supriya Chakrabarti, who leads the university’s Lowell Center for Space Science and Technology is supervising the project.
On Sunday, Aug.29, the satellite was on board a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket that lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch marked NASA and SpaceX’s 23rd mission to deliver supplies to the space station. From there, NASA plans to deploy SPACE HAUC into Earth’s orbit in mid-October.
The satellite’s yearlong mission is to successfully demonstrate it can transmit data at up to 50 to 100 megabits per second – significantly faster than current models. Pronounced “Space Hawk,” the spacecraft’s name is a tip of the hat to UML’s athletic teams, the River Hawks. The acronym stands for Science Program Around Communications Engineering with High-Achieving Undergraduate Cadres.
“Our goal is to train students to be the next generation of astronomers and space scientists and engineers through hands-on involvement in all phases of the mission, from instrument development to data analysis,” Chakrabarti said. “The purpose of SPACE HAUC is to demonstrate technology that hasn’t been done in such a small package.”
The satellite will reach altitudes around 240 miles while circling the Earth approximately every 90 minutes at about 17,000 miles per hour. Four solar panels will supply electricity to power the satellite’s electronics. The students will maintain a communication link between it and ground stations at UML and the MIT Haystack Observatory in Westford. The satellite will stay in orbit for a year or more before it gradually loses altitude and falls back to Earth. As it re-enters the atmosphere, aerodynamic stress and heating will cause it to disintegrate and burn up harmlessly, high above the ground.