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pacing the void

By Jennifer Sterba
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 29, 1997

UA satellite project takes off

Five months after its beginnings during a friendly discussion over pizza, the UA Student Satellite Project announced its mission yesterday to 17 teams of students and mentors who submitted project proposals two weeks ago.

"It (SSP's mission) will define what the satellite is going to be," said Alaina Levine, director of communications for the department of physics.

John Hsieh, professor of physics, said University of Arizona students will plan, design, construct, test and operate a spacecraft and its payload instruments. It will be ready for launch in June 1999.

Hsieh said an Evaluation and Selection Panel, made up of UA mentors and two outside industry engineers, was formed to examine the proposals and determine which would be incorporated in the satellite's mission.

Students' proposals outlined the satellite's parameters, the overall idea of their project, and how the students thought they could accomplish it.

Panel spokesman Don Huffman, regents professor of physics, recommended the Auroral and Lightening Imager as the science payload for the satellite.

"It will form the core of the science payload of SSP while incorporating the other (nonselected) science objectives," Huffman said.

Those objectives include Earth observation, photometry and stellar eclipses, Huffman said.

The imager will examine when and why lightening strikes in the atmosphere, said Brian Magi, a physics and math junior.

The imager will also look at the relationship between the sun's energy and the Earth's magnetosphere, which will help in predicting the weather.

"It will aid in tracking of pollutants in the atmosphere," said Eric Olson, a sophomore in optical engineering. "We seem to be dirtying our planet at an alarming rate."

Olson's and Magi's team proposal was selected for the science payload.

The SSP began Nov. 7 during a conversation over pizza between a member of the Physics Department, Hsieh, and the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department.

The project's objective is to provide hands-on training for graduate and undergraduate students in science and engineering as well as a testing ground for new ideas and techniques for science, engineering and related areas through student leadership.

"It will certainly give me a leg up when I go out in the professional field," said Rex Newbould, an electrical and computer engineering junior. "It's cool."

Newbould said this is the first time he has participated in undergraduate research. His team proposed a design for SSP's tracking and telemetry.

The SSP is working with NASA's Hitchhiker Program, which allows students to perform experiments in conjunction with shuttle missions.

Huffman said students whose proposals were not selected are urged to stay involved in the satellite project.

"You are still needed to make this a successful UA project," Huffman said. "It is clear that the teams 'selected' will benefit from contributions of all the SSP participants."

Hsieh added, "The talent pool of students and mentors is our basis of resources."

Other engineering proposals were chosen in the areas of tracking, telemetry and command; data and command handling; power generation and distribution; and mechanical structure and analysis.

In regard to the chosen satellite structure, Huffman said the selected team demonstrated a low-risk design with technically innovative materials.

Other companies participating in the selection panel include Motorola and Kaman Aerospace. Hsieh said representatives from those companies will continue as industry mentors throughout the project.

Proposals for funding will be sent to outside industries June 13, Hsieh said.

"We need a lot of support," he said. "We can't do it alone."

The satellite's design team will be unified by May 8.

Data analysis will be ready for publication in six months to a year, according to the project's World Wide Web site.

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