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NASA Launches Satellite Built By Naval Academy Midshipmen

Posted on: November 20, 2013 11:00 EST by Jessica Clark

A satellite constructed by Naval Academy midshipmen was one of 29 satellites on a rocket launched by NASA from Wallops Island, Va., Nov. 19.

Nearly half of the satellites were built by college and high school students from U.S. schools as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch initiative.

The initiative provides opportunities for small satellites to fly as auxiliary payloads on previously planned missions, promoting STEM education and innovative technology partnerships among NASA, industry and other sectors.

To participate in the program, student research must address aspects of science, exploration, technology development or education.

The Naval Academy satellite is designed to deploy a 1.5-meter boom that will orient and stabilize the satellite using differential gravity rather than active controls such as thrusters, said aerospace engineering Professor Jin Kang.

“Deploying something that long and flimsy in space is a challenge, and we are testing out our design,” he said.

An attached camera will allow Kang and his team to see how well the boom functions from their headquarters in Rickover Hall on the Naval Academy Yard.

“Something I helped build is flying over our heads at 11,700 miles per hour while our small satellite team tracks it in Rickover,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Ian Maloney. “It’s just amazing.  Getting the opportunity to work with such amazing people and be surrounded by such a wealth of knowledge, I just feel so lucky.”

Maloney is an astronautical engineering major who helped build the satellite, along with 2013 graduate Ensign Charles Newnam. 

“It was incredible to be given the opportunity to work on a real satellite,” said Maloney. “It’s an incredible learning experience and connects you to so many people.”

Maloney and Newnam attended the launch of the U.S. Air Force Minotaur 1 rocket that carried the satellites into space.

“Getting to go to the launch was probably the proudest moment of my life,” Maloney said. 
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