CSE Students Ship SOCRATES Satellite to NASA

CSE students at the University of Minnesota prepared their SOCRATES satellite for deployment in July, and are expecting a launch by the end of October. The project is led by Professor Demoz Gebre-Egziabher along with Dr. Lindsey Glesener. The SOCRATES satellite is able to look at gamma ray photons from deep space.

SOCRATES was originally proposed to the Undergraduate Student Instrument Project (USIP) through NASA in 2016. $200,000 were awarded for construction of the satellite. Undergraduate students designed most of the satellites components in house, including the flight computer software, the detector system, and the satellite structure.

SOCRATES is an acronym for Signal Opportunity CubeSat Ranging and Timing Experiment System.

Students have been working on the SOCRATES satellite for a year and ran final system tests in July, ensuring the satellite was ready for the NASA contractor, who came to campus on Thursday, July 25, and Friday the 26, to sign off on the satellite.

Small satellite project leader, Kyle Houser, explained the two mission goals for SOCRATES. “The first is to demonstrate the operation of an X-ray spectrometer on orbit which will be used to record incoming high-energy X-rays (10-100keV) from distant pulsars with well-known signals and predictable times of arrival. This can be used to demonstrate a new method of navigation, X-ray navigation or XNAV, which is essentially an alternative for GPS and can be applied to deep space navigation. The second goal is to record spectra from x-rays coming from solar flares. This will be used to investigate electron acceleration mechanisms in solar flares which can better inform models of solar weather. SOCRATES is mainly being used as a proof of concept for its detector on orbit. The lab currently has two similar missions being developed which will carry out these goals more in-depth.”

The SOCRATES satellite was delivered by team personnel on August 20 to Nanoracks in Houston. This was done as a “part of the 25th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission and shipped to NASA for launch on the ISS resupply mission NG-12 which is currently slated for launch on October 29.”

Find out more by reading CSE’s article on this project here.