On January 17 Michigan Tech University was chosen as the winning school in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s University Nanosatellite flight competition review (FCR). A team of 24 judges from AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate, AFRL Propulsion Directorate, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Department of Defense Space Test Program, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Orbital Sciences Corporation, SpaceX, and Northrop Grumman reviewed design documents and hardware demonstrations from the eleven participating universities. 25 undergraduates from MTU travelled to the FCR, which was held in Albuquerque, NM.
As the winning university, Michigan Tech will now receive a two-year follow-on contract from AFOSR to perform final integration and testing of the spacecraft to prepare it for launch and also to construct a ground-control station on campus. The DoD Space Test Program will launch the MTU satellite into low-Earth orbit in 2013. The spacecraft will complete a one-year nominal mission controlled from MTU. The satellite has been completely designed and built by MTU undergraduate students during a four-year program.
The MTU vehicle is called Oculus-ASR. The spacecraft is 70 kg and about half the size of a refrigerator. The spacecraft’s mission will improve techniques that the Department of Defense currently uses to keep track of all objects in space, who owns them, and what they’re doing. The Oculus-ASR will perform coordinated maneuvers during overflights of the Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS), which is an array of mountain-top telescopes used to inspect orbiting objects. AMOS investigators will attempt to determine the orientation and shape of the vehicle and will compare these measurements with the actual “truth” data that is downloaded from the satellite. The vehicle has the capability to change its shape by deploying panels to exercise the AMOS algorithms and see if ground observers can detect the shape changes. The Oculus-ASR also carries two sensitive imaging cameras that were donated by SAIC and Raytheon Missile Systems. These cameras will be used to gather space-to-space images of other orbiting objects that can then be compared with the ground-to-space images obtained by AMOS.
The Oculus-ASR project is advised by Brad King and Javier Fernandez.
Schools Involved in the Nanosatellite Competition:
Michigan Tech University
University of Minnesota
Montana Sate University
University of Central Florida
Missouri University of Science and Technology
University of Hawaii
St. Louis University
Santa Clara University