Category Archives: Space participation

Satellites deployed into orbit from ISS include Cubesat built by grade school students

The company NanoRacks has a system installed in the Japanese Kibo module on the Int. Space Station that ejects small CubeSat satellites into orbit. Over 100 satellites have now been deployed by NanoRacks. This video shows the deployment of satellites in 2014:

The image below shows two Dove earth observations satellites from the company Planet Labs shooting past the ISS solar panels during their deployment into orbit this week: CubeSats Deployed From the International Space Station – NASA

CubeSats fly free after leaving the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer on the International Space Station on May 17, 2016. Seen here are two Dove satellites. The satellites are part of a constellation designed, built and operated by Planet Labs Inc. to take images of Earth from space. The images have several humanitarian and environmental applications, from monitoring deforestation and urbanization to improving natural disaster relief and agricultural yields in developing nations. A total of 17 CubeSats have been released since Monday from a small satellite deployer on the outside of the Kibo experiment module’s airlock. CubeSats are a new, low-cost tool for space science missions. Instead of the traditional space science missions that carry a significant number of custom-built, state-of-the-art instruments, CubeSats are designed to take narrowly targeted scientific observations, with only a few instruments, often built from off-the-shelf components.
One of the CubeSats deployed in the past week includes STMSat-1, which was assembled and tested by elementary students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, Virginia: Elementary School Students Make History with Help from Orbital ATK.

St. Thomas More Cathedral School is now the first elementary school in the world to launch a CubeSat into orbit thanks to financial and volunteer support from Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group. Over the last three years, 400 pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students have participated in all aspects of the project, from design, to construction, to testing.

The CubeSat, officially known as St. Thomas More (STM) Sat-1, will photograph the Earth and transmit images to remote ground stations throughout the country, engaging more than 10,000 grade school students who will participate via Remote Mission Operations Centers.

The CubeSat, STMSat-1(Credit: St. Thomas More Cathedral School)

Joe Pellegrino, Orbital ATK engineer, NASA deputy project manager and a parent at the school, served as the team’s mission manager and led the students through all aspects of getting a mission off the ground.

“Usually these are built by universities or even grad students, so it’s quite remarkable that we’ve been able to do this with grade students,” said Pellegrino. “We taught the students about design philosophy how to do computerized design. The students also helped us with a vibration test. We even did a high altitude test in the parking lot of the school.”

St. Thomas More Cathedral School students gather to watch their CubeSat deploy from the International Space Station. (Credit: St. Thomas More Cathedral School)

The CubeSat is four inches long and weighs close to three pounds. It was carried to space on Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo resupply spacecraft as part of NASA’s Education Launch of Nanosatellites IX mission in December of 2015. Along with CubeSats from the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Michigan, STMSat-1 deployed from the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer on May 16. The students expect to start receiving their first images this week.

STMSat-1 (bottom right) deploys from the International Space Station on May 16, 2016. (Credit: NASA).

Team Miles wins top tier prizes in Ground Tournaments 1& 2 in NASA CubeQuest Challenge

Here’s a message from the Miles Space Project, which has won $50k in prize money so far in NASA’s CubeQuest Challenge competition to design, build, and fly small satellites “capable of advanced operations near and beyond the moon”.

Team Miles brings home another top finish
in the NASA CubeQuest Challenge

Tampa, FL – March 17, 2016. Today, NASA announced that Team Miles, the leading contestant in the NASA CubeQuest Challenge, has once again secured a top tier position in Ground Tournament 2. As the 1st place winner of Ground Tournament 1, Team Miles was already eligible to secure a place on the SLS Exploratory Mission Launch scheduled for 2018. With this second win, they have now accumulated $50,000 in prize money.


Wes Faler, team lead for Miles stated,

“I’m very proud of my team. I know we still have a long, hard road ahead of us. I’ve seen the competition and we know how qualified they are. We’ll continue to forge ahead and not take anything for granted. Our team has a daring mission plan and I’m thrilled that NASA has recognized our capabilities with two consecutive ground tournament victories.”

According to Alex Wingeier, Digital Janitor for Team Miles,

“I believe the win came as a result of the many structural improvements based on feedback from the NASA Safety Team as well as the continued successful testing and implementation of the ConstantQ thrusters provided by Fluid & Reason, Inc. and the R.A.C.P. boards from Yosemite Space.”

Team Miles is the only non-university team to earn a prize in Ground Tournament 2. As a team of citizen scientists and engineers, they came together initially through Tampa Hackerspace, a community, non-profit workshop located in Tampa, FL. The team soon expanded to include experts in radiation, communications, software development, and project management.

The NASA Cube Quest Challenge is a competition to build space-ready, small satellites capable of advanced communication and propulsion near and beyond the moon. Teams strive for high-speed data communications, navigation, and survival in lunar orbit or deep space, competing for an unprecedented $5.5 million prize purse in NASA’s first ever in-space challenge. Cube Quest is part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program which accelerates technology by engaging non-traditional sources in competition.

The Miles spacecraft is a 6U satellite, about the size of a breadbox, that will be capable of navigating to the Moon, establishing Lunar orbit, conducting its mission, and then navigating to a final orbit near Mars. The entire mission will be flown autonomously by a sophisticated onboard computer system and powered by evolutionary plasma thrusters.

In addition to the $50,000 in prize money the team has won so far, their efforts have also been supported by strategic partnerships with Fluid and Reason (,  Yosemite Space (, The DRI (, Piedmont Precision Aeroculture (, Brainloop (, Basecamp (, Thermal Management Technologies (, and Sabalcore (

National Space Society conference: ISDC 2016 – Puerto Rico – May 18-22

The National Space Society‘s annual conference is coming up on May 18-22. This year it is being held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Here is a video about the event:

And here is an invitation from the NSS:

May 7, 2016
Dear Space Enthusiast:

The National Space Society invites you to discover Space Beyond Borders at the International Space Development Conference® 2016 ( this May 18-22 at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Imagine for a moment… Tomorrow, for the first time ever, mankind was landing on Mars. That would be amazing! Leaping into Space Beyond Earth and landing on another planet will be the most exciting accomplishment of Our Time.

The International Space Development Conference® is for everyone interested in or involved in all things about Space including Space Exploration, Moon Settlement, Mars Exploration and Settlement, Living in Space, New Discoveries, Innovative Technologies, Commercialization of Space, Asteroid Harvesting, Space Solar Power, Space Tourism, and Space Law and Policy.

Our trip to Space, to the Moon, to Mars, and Beyond is happening NOW!

Bear witness and be a part of the movement.

Come to Puerto Rico, where the Milky Way shines brightly and the blue Caribbean waters shimmer.

ISDC® 2016 is where space leaders, astronauts, professionals and the next generation of students convene to examine the technical, scientific, economic, and social challenges and potentials of space exploration.

Do not miss out on this great opportunity and register now at

The National Space Society is looking forward to seeing you this May in Puerto Rico.


Bruce Pittman
Senior Vice President & Senior Operating Officer
National Space Society

Videos: Watch “Moon Shot” series by Orlando von Einsiedel & J.J. Abrams

I posted earlier about the “Moon Shot” documentary project by Orlando von Einsiedel & J.J. Abram, which profiles participants in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. The nine short films are now available on YouTube. (The videos are also available for free at Google Play.) You can watch all the films in sequence here starting with the trailer:

The films are very well done and often quite poignant. Below are descriptions of each episode.

Ep. 1 – Astrobotic – Pittsburgh, USA : “Legendary roboticist Red Whittaker is a professor who splits his time between teaching future engineers at Carnegie Mellon and owning/operating a working cattle farm in rural Pennsylvania. With a crack team of former students, he co-founded Astrobotic because he believes robots are the best solution for exploring remote, harsh environments — from nuclear disaster zones to the moon.”

Ep. 2 – Part-Time Scientists – Germany: “Founded by an ad hoc group of part-timers, this Berlin-based GLXP team [PT Scientists] plans to open source its mission data. Team leader Robert Böhme, who was raised in the former East Germany, says the free exchange of information is ultimately more important than money.”

Ep. 3 – Team Indus – India “Deepana Gandhi dreamed of a career in math/science, but she grew up in rural India where women aren’t typically afforded the same opportunities as men. After struggling to find a job, Deepana eventually landed at Indus in Bangalore, where she works on the equations necessary for navigating to the moon.”

Ep. 4 – Team Plan B – Canada: “Alex Dobrianski emigrated from the Ukraine to Vancouver to build a better life for his wife Luda and their three children. Twenty years later, after launching a career in IT, he staked his retirement money on the GLXP and recruited his son Sergei to help him pursue his lifelong passion for aerospace, which Alex had been forced to abandon in post-Soviet Ukraine.” – Team Plan B

Ep. 5 – Hakuto – Japan: “When the 2011 tsunami decimated Japan’s Pacific coast, robotics Professor Kazuya Yoshida and his family were lucky to escape harm’s way. Understanding that it’s only a matter of time before an even greater natural disaster strikes, the professor wants his rovers to explore the lunar caves, which could provide a suitable location for future human settlements that will help preserve our species.” – Hakuto team

Ep. 6 – Moon Express – Cape Canaveral, USA: “When Naveen Jain moved from India to the U.S., he was a poor university student with an uncertain future and a hunch that anything is possible. Decades later, after becoming a successful Internet entrepreneur, he co-founded Moon Express to help find a solution to the world’s energy crisis.” Moon Express

Ep. 7 – SpaceIL – Israel: “One of the last teams to enter the GLXP, SpaceIL was co-founded by Yariv Bash, whose grandfather’s life was tragically altered by the Holocaust. Inspired by his grandfather’s work as an engineer, Bash hopes SpaceIL’s efforts to build cool new technology will encourage others, including his young son, to improve the world for future generations.”

Ep. 8 – Mecaliks – Mexico: “9-year-old Jana González turned to playing videogames after her parent’s divorce. As her love of playing games evolved into programming them, she soon discovered robotics and joined an all-girl team competing in the Moonbots, a worldwide robotics competition for kids.” –Mecaliks Moonbots team

Ep. 9 – Race for the Prize: “For nearly a decade, people around the world have been racing to The Moon as part of the Google Lunar X-PRIZE, a $30 million contest. Developing an array of new technologies for landing and exploring the lunar surface, these private teams are making big strides and sacrifices to chase their dream of reaching the moon!”

VIdeo: Sunita Williams talks about ISS amateur radio contacts with students

There is a ham radio station on the Int. Space Station that the crew members (many of whom  have amateur radio licenses) use to talk with hams on the ground. In addition, quite often there is an arrangement made with a school group that allows students to talk with and ask questions of the crew via the ham radio when the ISS is flying over the school’s area.

In this video, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams talks about the big impact that the ISS ham radio contacts with such class room groups had on her. Over 1000 such class room contacts have been made so far.

Find more about the ISS amateur radio program at the ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) website. There is info there on how you can arrange for your local school to have a ham radio session with the ISS.