After two delays, the Atlas V rocket carrying a University of Colorado satellite is now scheduled to launch at 1:40 a.m. Saturday.
The rocket previously had been scheduled for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Thursday morning but was delayed then, and again early Friday, because of a range safety issue, meaning there was possibly a boat or truck in the launch area, according to students who worked on the project.
Once launched, the CubeSat satellite, measuring at 3,000 cubic centimeters and made mostly out of aluminum alloy by students in CU's aerospace engineering department, will orbit the Earth for more than 15 years, project officials said.
The satellite will measure energized particles caused by solar flares, including high-energy protons and electrons within Earth's outer radiation belt, using an energetic particle telescope housed within its cube structure.
"The satellite will help measure space weather," said David Gerhardt, the project's system engineer and a doctoral student at CU. "A lot of people are interested in predicting what's going to happen with space weather. The more information we have, the better predictions can be."
Scientists will use the data transmitted from CubeSat in conjunction with the other 10 satellites carried by the Atlas V rocket.
CubeSat data will be transmitted twice to three times a day to the ground station at Colorado Avenue and 30th Street over at least a three-month period.
Data will also be used to help determine the number of electrons that the radiation belt is losing and an overall loss rate, said Xinlin Li, the project's principal investigator and a CU professor.
More than 60 students -- doing calculations, running simulations or taking the class associated with the project, "space flight hardware design" -- were involved with CubeSat. Two men from the Loveland Repeater Association, an organization that promotes amateur radio in the Loveland area, were also involved.
"Students learn system engineering skills," Li said. "They learn coordination, learn how to deal with the subsystem, how to work with solar panels, solar cells and make accurate measurements of protons and electrons."
The CubeSat project was funded by CU and the National Science Foundation. The NSF granted CubeSat $840,000 through a proposal that students developed.
"It's been amazing to see a project from start to finish," said Gerhardt, who is in California for the satellite's launch. "Usually, when you get involved in a project as a student, there's not usually one person that gets to be a part of the design-to-delivery steps. I've been really lucky to be able to be part of the team that developed the proposal and be there for the launch of the satellite."
Gerhardt helped manage the project with fellow graduate students Lauren Blum and Quintin Schiller.
"(Working on CubeSat) has given me a really good sense of what working on a real NASA mission is like. It's made me think that maybe this is what I want to do, rather than just scientific research," said Blum, who has a background in physics. "I'm really liking how missions get designed and all of the different stages of that process."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Cory Lamz at 303-473-1361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.