Members of CubeSat Team SJSU reach for the skies as they continue to build "ReadySat Go," a small cube-shaped satellite that will one day be launched into orbit.
ReadySat Go, which will be about the size of a small Kleenex box, is a communications satellite.
"The quickest way to say it is, it's an answering machine in space," said Eric Stackpole, a senior mechanical engineering major and the club president. "You send a message up and it records that message. Then when it flies over a different part of the Earth, it can send that message back down."
According to the official CubeSat Web site, the project was originally started by Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and was designed to give educational institutions "practical, reliable, and cost-effective launch opportunities for small satellites and their payloads."
The San Jose State University team is taking this idea to a higher level with their satellite. Stackpole said in addition to saving money by using older space-grade solar cells, which were donated to them, they are employing creative construction techniques that make the project more practical and cost effective.
"A lot of CubeSats are built using really fancy tools in machine shops," Stackpole said. "What we're trying to do is build a satellite in a new way using sheet metal and it's riveted together which makes it lighter weight and makes it so you can build it in a common shop."
CubeSats are attached to larger commercial satellites in a device called a poly picosatellite orbital deployer, known as a P-POD, which can hold up to three satellites. Once the commercial satellite is in orbit, the smaller satellites are released. Therefore, these satellites are more cost effective to launch because they don't require their own rocket.
The team, which is made up of SJSU students and alumni, has been working on the project for more than a year now. The project is also completely extracurricular.
"It's so driven by passion and pure interest," said Faith Chihil, a junior advertising major and the team's public relations representative. "None of this is done for a grade."
The SJSU team is a combination of students from various majors, including computer science, engineering and advertising. They are also collaborating with other organizations on campus, including the Amateur Radio Club. Chihil said the diversity of the team is a major benefit.
"The biggest thing we're learning about this club is about being inclusive instead of exclusive," she said. "Many other CubeSat satellite teams are composed of maybe all one major, like all aerospace or all mechanical."
Chihil said she and other members of the team are learning new skills that they wouldn't learn in their regular classes.
"I'm also learning about how to speak technical jargon," she said. "I'm an advertising student, but I'm learning how to speak at a technical level, learning how to work with different organizations besides, you know, shampoo."
Kristian Klibo, an SJSU computer science alumnus and software engineer for the project, said he is getting the opportunity to do something he wouldn't be able to do elsewhere.
"Stackpole sold me on a dream of satellite constellations," he said. "So I said, 'I want to program a space computer, so I'm down,' and that's why I'm here."
This story was filed by UWIRE, which offers reporting from more than 800 colleges and universities worldwide. Read more at www.uwire.com.