Local team selected by Air Force for space launch

A team from the University of Minnesota Small Satellite Laboratory was selected in a competition to be one of three teams to have their small instrument, a cubesat, launched into space. Professor Lindsay Glesener of the School of Physics and Astronomy was a co-advisor (along with Professor Demoz Gebre-Egziabher of the School of Aerospace Engineering) on the project which will test a proof of concept design for space navigation. The technology will measure x-rays from a pulsar in the crab nebula to triangulate a position. This is a useful system of navigation for space travel beyond earth-orbit satellites and for the earth, should GPS satellites go down for some reason. Lindsay’s area of research is using X-rays to study solar astrophysics so her students have a background in creating satellites to measure X-rays.

Meredith Wieber, a senior double majoring in physics and astronomy, is the project manager for the team. Wieber and her teammates traveled to New Mexico to the University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) finals at Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Their prototype needed to have a radioactive x-ray source in order to do a live demonstration for the competition. Because of TSA restrictions, the team had to plan ahead to find a source available in New Mexico. Detector Team Lead, Lestat Clemmer, a physics major, found a small americium source from a smoke detector in a hardware store in Albuquerque.

After the award ceremony, the team returned to Minnesota where they are preparing their small satellite, the size of a shoebox, to launch into space in 2023. Their hosts from the UNP will travel to Minnesota to review their design. “They will be coming to look at our lab to make sure we’re set up,” Wieber said. “They hold your hand a little bit. That’s really pretty nice because they raise a lot of questions we need to address. It’s a great program because we get a lot of guidance.”

Other members of the project team are: Runsheng Ma, Software Designer, Computer Science and Physics alumnus, currently a computer science masters student. Kyle Houser, Data Analysis, Ph.D. Candidate in Aerospace Engineering. Per Jorgenson - Communications Specialist,  Physics alumnus, currently an Aerospace Engineering masters student. Mansour Savadogo, Chief Engineer, Senior Electrical Engineering major.