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COSAM professors awarded NSF grant for Cubesat project

Published: 08/24/2015

By: Lindsay Miles

University faculty members J-M Wersinger and Mike Fogle of the Department of Physics, along with Daniel Harris of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Saad Biaz of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, and collaborators from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, received an award from the National Science Foundation in the amount of $893,873 to support a Cubesat project, “Collaborative Research: CubeSat: Observing Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flash (TGF) Beams With A Pair Of CubeSats.” This is the first time NSF has awarded a grant for the construction, launch and operation of two, three-unit CubeSats for a unified mission.

The project members will investigate the structure of powerful gamma-ray flashes associated with thunderstorms in the tropical regions of Earth using nanosatellites called “Cubesats.” CubeSats are small satellites that come in multiples of 4-inch cubes. Auburn launched its first single-unit CubeSat, AubieSat-1, in October 2011. The two, three-unit CubeSats are being developed for the NSF-funded mission and are called TRYAD 1 and TRYAD 2. “TRYAD” stands for Terrestrial RaYs Analysis and Detection.

Auburn University team members are designing and building the two CubeSats that will carry science instruments into space, as well as the tools for commanding and controlling the satellites once in space using the NASA Near Earth Network of ground stations. The CubeSats built by Auburn will also test PULSAR, a new high-bandwidth radio developed by NASA engineers, capable of transmitting 150 million data bits per second. The two CubeSats will be designed, built and tested by Auburn undergraduate student members of the Auburn University Student Space Program under the guidance of faculty in Physics and Engineering. NSF will arrange for the rocket launch provider that will carry the CubeSats into low Earth orbit for an approximately 18-month mission. The two satellites will undergo many tests and reviews before launch.
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