Students shoot for the stars with CubeSat launch

A group of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) students brought space a huge step closer to UCCS on Saturday, April 1.

Electrical Engineering students Caleb Hill, Ian Heinrich, Lauren Uebel and Alondra Hauser; Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering students Edward Lundberg and Maxwell Albrecht; and Data Analytics and Systems Engineering student Isaac Remington launched a CubeSat, which is a miniature satellite that has most of the capabilities of a real satellite, into near space on a high-altitude balloon flight.

The project was part of the students’ respective Senior Capstone courses. They were advised by faculty members Ben Wilcox and Bill Michael. The students worked together to design and build the CubeSat and launched their CubeSat at 6:45 a.m. from Deer Trail, CO. The CubeSat flew to 120,000 feet and successfully demonstrated several innovative communication experiments, including downloading in-flight telemetry and images.

The CubeSat powered on and functioned completely throughout the flight with ample energy remaining at touchdown. Photos and raw sensor data indicated that there was some significant turbulence during the flight, but the payload was undamaged when recovered on the ground near Burlington, CO. RF data links also worked well and the team received real-time in-flight telemetry, passed a text message to another ham radio and downloaded images during the flight. The team was able to relay messages through the payload to and from Amateur Radio operator and volunteer Vlad Fomitchev.

The students also partnered with the Colorado Space Grant Consortium (CSGC) and Amergint Technologies on the CubeSat project. The CSGC works with colleges, universities and institutions around Colorado and provides students an opportunity to interact with engineers and scientists from NASA and aerospace companies to develop, test and fly new space technologies.

CSGC’s high altitude balloon flight program, or DemoSat, provides low-cost access to the edge of space. Students design, fabricate, launch, recover and analyze data from balloon payloads of their own design. The students worked closely with the CSGC operational ham radio and recovery team, with one of CSGC members saying, “Congratulations on your success! I very much appreciate the creativity, work, and time that went into making this a success. I look forward to seeing the next phase of your endeavors.”

Amergint Technologies builds transformational hardware and software solutions that support critical programs around the globe and in space. The Amergint team also worked closely with the students on requirements and communication payload operation and were pleased with the flight results.

This collaboration is an excellent example of the many hands-on opportunities students have in the EAS college and with the CSGC. One such opportunity involves another team of students recently being selected to participate in CSGC’s Great Lunar Expedition for Everyone (GLEE). This mission will deploy tiny spacecraft to the moon’s surface to conduct science experiments and programmed by students for a mission of their own design. The UCCS team formed in fall 2022 and is continuing to work on this next step – to the moon!

About the UCCS College of Engineering and Applied Science

The College of Engineering and Applied Science enrolls more than 1,700 students and offers 23 engineering and computer science degrees, ranging from bachelor to doctoral. The college is a Department of Homeland Security / National Security Agency Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense and works closely with the National Cybersecurity Center and with more than 250 aerospace and defense, information technology, cybersecurity and engineering organizations in the Pikes Peak region. Learn more about the College of Engineering and Applied Science at UCCS.