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Davis Journal

USU students’ project launched into space

Jan 03, 2022 09:23AM ● By Becky Ginos

Carter Page during the delivery and integration at Nanoracks in Houston.

BOUNTIFUL—A group of Utah State University students made history last week when NASA launched their satellite project to space. It was the first of its kind built entirely by undergraduate students.

Built by the Get Away Special Team, GASPACS, (Get Away Special Passive Attitude Control Satellite) is a technology demonstration that uses a custom-built inflatable aerodynamic boom to passively stabilize its orbit, according to material provided by USU.

“I graduated from Bountiful High in 2020,” said Carter Page, a mechanical engineering student at USU and mechanical team lead. “I found out about the GAS team and I’m all about space so I jumped right on it.”

The project has been in the works for about eight years, he said. “The project has almost died once or twice over the past years. Thanks to our student team leader Jack Danos pushing it for the last couple of years we finally had the team to get it done.”

The purpose is to test it in a small format, said Page. “It’s an affordable way to test something. When it gets to space it deploys an inflatable boom that kind of sits behind the satellite like a tail.”

It acts like feathers on the end of an arrow, he said. “As it flies it interacts with particles of air that cause drag and force the satellite along the velocity vector. The main mission is to deploy the boom to take pictures and send them back to Earth to prove that we did it.”

It stays deployed and connected to the satellite until it burns up and returns to the Earth’s atmosphere, Page said. “It takes about a year before it burns up.”

Page said the project is to demonstrate that it can be done. “Deploying an inflatable really hasn’t been done before. In our case we used it to stabilize something, in other cases it can build structures like inflatable arms, etc.”

The team worked over the summer and finished in August. Page estimated that they spent about 400 hours on the project. “We worked our butts off,” he said. “Then in September we got to go down and deliver it to Nanoracks in Houston.”

It’s part of the CubeSat launch initiative program (CSLI), said Page. NASA basically pays for launch management except for the development and construction of the satellite.”

GASPACS will be launched to the International Space Station by a Falcon 9 where astronauts will then deploy the satellite out into orbit on Jan. 24, 2022.

“While we’re waiting for that we'll start on the next project,” Page said. “Jack will graduate and I’ll take over as Team Leader. I’ll be over whatever project is next.”

Having all undergrads working on the project can be tough, he said. “They graduate and all that knowledge is lost. That’s definitely rough but such a rewarding opportunity to get into position to make important decisions on this team. It’s pretty special.”

Page has liked space since he was in junior high. “I hope students in Utah can see this project and realize they have an option to help build a satellite when they come in right at the start (of college),” he said. “It blew my mind when I found out about it.”