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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.
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.”
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.
On April 16, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center hosted the 16th annual Student Launch competition in Huntsville, Alabama. During the event student-designed and built rockets were launched in an effort to reach an altitude of one mile, deploy an automated parachute system, and safely land to be recovered. The competition gives young aspiring engineers a chance to test their high-flying creations and a shot at a $5,000 cash prize. NASA hosts this and other events like it to engage students across the country in the agency’s Journey to Mars through hands-on activities in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Some of the best works of art come from children who are only limited by their imaginations, like the more than 150 young explorers from across the country who submitted artwork depicting human spaceflight as they see it. Sixteen masterpieces were chosen to be included in the Commercial Crew Program’s 2016 Children’s Artwork Calendar, which is now available for download here. We offer a huge “thank you!” to all the explorers, ranging in age from four to 12, who submitted their work and hope that everyone will enjoy and use this calendar next year.