University of Michigan launches two satellites into space on back of NASA rocket

With 30 seconds to go before two satellites they built were due to rocket into space, the 20 students or so gathered early this morning in a University of Michigan lab grew quiet.

There wasn’t a large celebration when the rocket blasted off.

Instead, there was a sense of fulfillment in the lab and an acknowledgment that the work wasn’t over – the satellites would soon be deployed in space and need monitoring.

U-M put two satellites into space this morning – M-Cubed and RAX. They hitched a ride on a NASA rocket and satellite. U-M was one of three universities across the nation to send satellites into space on this rocket.

M-cubed, which about the size of a square tissue box, – 10 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm – is designed for taking pictures of Earth. But more importantly, it is also flying a prototype of a specialized computer that private industry is testing for future space flights. RAX, which is about three times the size of M-Cubed, will be conducting a variety of experiments and measurements of the atmosphere.

U-M has a long tradition of being involved in the space program. It currently has one satellite in orbit. It has funding for two more missions.

It’s taken four years to build M-Cubed. Ken Gmerek, now a senior and the project manager, joined the team the second week of his freshmen year.

“I’m excited and a little nervous,” he said about 5:40 a.m. this morning, eight minutes before the launch. “I’m also a little relieved to get to this point. It’s been a long time coming.”

Students Ken Gmerek, Jessica Schwartz and Jake Peyser await the launch of the satellites.

Much of the material to build the M-Cubed satellite came from materials purchased in local hardware stores, Gmerek said.

Having students build satellites that are actually launched into space is a great combination of teaching them how to do research, the engineering skills needed and also how to work with industry, said James Cutler, an aerospace engineering professor at U-M who has been guiding the students.

Many of the students that have been involved in the program and graduated have gone to work directly for a variety of space-related companies.

Some of those former students were in California near the launch site this morning to watch the launch and called the lab a couple of times to celebrate.

The satellites were expected to start broadcasting signals mid-morning. U-M has set up a couple of tracking stations on campus to get those signals.

Watch video of the rocket launch from NASA:

Via:Detroit Free Press

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