COSAM News Articles 2024 03 Auburn students gain career skills through space mission launch

Auburn students gain career skills through space mission launch

Published: 03/12/2024

By: Maria Gebhardt

Auburn University students are acquiring essential workforce skills through an innovative initiative, supported by Firefly Aerospace's award to launch a mission aimed at addressing space debris mitigation.

Leading the Auburn project are Michael Fogle, the Howard Earl and Carolyn Taylor Carr Professor in the Department of Physics, and Mark Adams, the Godbold Associate Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Fogle and Adams are the principal faculty mentors of the Auburn University Small Satellite Program (AUSSP), which currently has several other cubesat missions in the design phase and close to launch.

"This opportunity provides students with hands-on involvement in designing, constructing, testing, flying, and operating small satellites," stated Fogle, underscoring Auburn's commitment to delivering exceptional educational experiences.

Firefly’s Dedicated Research Education Accelerator Mission (DREAM) program has allocated excess capacity on its Alpha rocket to deploy cubesats or small satellites into low Earth orbit.

“These students are working to design and build an electrodynamic tether,” Fogle explained. “Think of a conducting ribbon or cable that moves through a magnetic field. An electrical current is induced. The resulting current moving through the magnetic field then experiences a force in the direction opposite the direction of motion of the satellite. This can help accelerate the ability to get these satellites out of orbit quicker and reduce the total amount of excess dead satellites that represent a debris risk to other missions.” 

While historically, cubesats were designed to re-enter and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere after approximately 25 years, recent regulatory changes have shortened this timeline to five years. This project equips students with practical skills to address this pressing space debris issue.

The project targets a potential launch in 2025, with all work conducted on the Auburn University campus.

"Auburn University students will gain a diverse range of skills through this mission," Fogle noted. “This experience spans mechanical, thermal, electrical and software design as well as project management and systems engineering.”

"These skills are transferable across various career paths, enhancing their preparedness for future careers,” emphasized Fogle. "In addition to technical skills, students will develop soft skills critical for their professional journeys.”

"I am immensely proud that Auburn University students have the opportunity to lead a space mission," Fogle remarked. "This endeavor embodies Auburn's ethos, empowering students to participate in the DREAM program and cultivate skills necessary for impactful careers, both on Earth and beyond."


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