Overview: KySat-1 is the state of Kentucky’s first satellite that was entirely designed, built, and tested by university students. The primary mission is educational outreach to both the university students who worked on the satellite and to K-12 students and teachers, ultimately providing opportunities for hands-on learning in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines. Once in orbit, the satellite will transmit on amateur radio bands allowing communication between ground and orbit with standard HAM radio equipment. To this end, the satellite payload includes a digital camera and high bandwidth S-band radio to permit photo downloads, as well as a high powered UHF/VHF radio to allow satellite communication using small portable ground stations that can be easily set up on the playground or parking lot of a school.
Mission Objectives: The primary mission objective for KySat-1 is educational outreach. For educational purposes KySat-1 can be commanded via mobile ground stations using HAM frequencies. These mobile ground stations will be taken to schools around the state for children to have their first direct interaction with a satellite. The goal is to stimulate young minds by bringing aerospace technology to them. Children will be able to upload/download images and audio files, and will also have the capability to command the satellite to take photos using ground station software developed by SSL.
Lesson plans and equipment loan programs are being developed for teachers to augment STEM lessons in the classroom. The KySat-1 program is managed by the nonprofit organization Kentucky Space while design, construction, and testing occurred at the University of Kentucky in Lexington and Morehead State University. Ground stations at both universities will track the satellite once in orbit. Students at both schools will jointly manage a website for students, teachers, and the general public, to providing constant updates of KySat-1’s location and telemetry.
A secondary objective for KySat-1 is proof of concept. Starting design in 2006, KySat-1 has been revised and optimized over the past few years. Once the KySat-1 mission is successful, the SSL will have a standard on which to base future satellites built by the lab.
Launch: KySat-1 is scheduled to be launched on March 4 at 2:09:43 PST (5:09:43 EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellite is one of three student built satellites launched by NASA through project ELaNa (Educational Launch of NanoSatellite). This launch is the first of project ELaNa and marks the first time NASA has launched student built satellites aboard their rockets. The primary mission for this launch is the GLORY environmental satellite which will sense earth aerosols and measure solar irradiance. Once GLORY is released from the rocket, the three CubeSats will be deployed by a specialized piece of hardware developed by university students at California Polytechnic University called a P-POD.
Communications: The communication system for KySat-1 includes amateur and commercial radio equipment. The amateur (HAM) radio interface includes a UHF (436.79 MHz) downlink and a VHF uplink (145.85 MHz) which will allow a broad audience of amateur radio operators and enthusiasts to interact with the satellite. A commercial 2.4 GHz radio transmitting in the S band is a communication payload meant to test high data rate communication from CubeSats in orbit.
Ground stations for communication with KySat-1 exist at both the University of Kentucky and Morehead State University. At UK, two UHF/VHF antennas are installed on the roof of the College of Engineering’s F. Paul Anderson Tower, while Morehead State uses the University’s 21 Meter high gain antenna for S-Band communications.
Operations: Once in orbit the operation of KySat-1 will not be limited to the students at UK and Morehead State Universities. One of KySat-1’s main objectives from its onset was for the satellite to serve as an outreach mechanism to foster student involvement in subject dealing with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). With that the radios onboard KySat-1 allow for communication with the ground with simple amateur radio equipment such as handheld Yagi antennas. Additionally the satellite will be accessible through a web based flight software allowing for commands to be sent such as taking images, voice repeating, and telemetry gathering. The sun synchronous orbit which KySat-1 will be inserted into allows it to pass over Kentucky at the same time everyday twice a day.
Why is KySat-1 important? KySat-1 is the end result of four years of work by Kentucky Space to build the infrastructure and develop the knowledge base necessary to design, build, and test space payloads. This operation was undertaken with the goal of encouraging students to work on and solve difficult problems in order to foster innovative ideas in the state of Kentucky. KySat-1 is the first satellite developed by Kentucky and its outreach capabilities will inspire K-12 students to purse Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
KySat-1 Quick Facts:
External Dimensions – 10 cm x 10 cm x 11.35 cm (3.94” x 3.94” x 4.47”)
Mass – 1 Kg (2.2 lbs)
Orbit – Sun Synchronous 650 Kilometer (405 miles) Altitude
Operating Power -1 Watt (typical light bulb operates between 60 – 100 watts)