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University of Texas 'Picosatellite' to be launched from space shuttle to begin milestone mission
Date:6/9/2009

said Henri Kjellberg, an aerospace engineering graduate student who worked on the project. "Our satellite will determine where it is and send mission data down to a ground station. It does this autonomously, and that's pretty cool because it took a lot of computer programming to make it work."

The university's satellite is aptly named BEVO-1, and the A&M satellite is called AggieSat2. Each school built their satellites independently but to a common interface and worked with an annual budget of $75,000, which is remarkably inexpensive for spacecraft attempting such a task.

Bishop said several multi-million-dollar missions using much larger spacecraft have attempted autonomous rendezvous and docking. He said if the picosatellite project is successful, the design could be used as a platform for less expensive missions in the future.

"What is so special here is that these spacecraft are tiny, so the technology is packed into a small volume. And it's cheap," Bishop said. "Many strategic thinkers are looking towards picospacecraft as the next revolution in space."

The satellites will operate about 185 miles above the Earth's surface but below the altitude of the International Space Station. Kjellberg said its operational lifetime is between three to six months. However, it could remain in orbit for up to a year before falling to earth and burning up harmlessly in the atmosphere.

"We're not adding to the space debris," said Travis Imken, a team member and aerospace engineering junior.

The university's satellite was built under the program called PARADIGM, which stands for Platform for Autonomous Rendezvous And Docking with Innovative GN&C Methods. Future missions of the picosatellites will include the tasks of pointing the satellites in a particular direction, the rendezvous process and the actual docking sequence.

Associate Professor Glenn Lightsey is the co-investigator of the PARADIGM project. Other univers
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Contact: Robert Bishop
rhbishop@mail.utexas.edu
512-471-4596
University of Texas at Austin
Source:Eurekalert  

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