Old Dominion’s cubesat, Aeternitas, passed preflight vibration testing at NASA Langley on August 17. This is an important step in flight preparation for its launch to the International Space Station slated from the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport in November. The satellite is part of the Virginia CubeSat Constellation, a three-satellite mission funded by NASA’s Undergraduate Student Research Program and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. More than 140 students from ODU, UVA, Virginia Tech and Hampton University have been engaged in the Constellation project. UVA and Virginia Tech are also each flying a cubesat in the planned constellation.
The low cost and increasing utility of CubeSats present the opportunity to conduct student-based missions that can address many of society’s technical and scientific needs. This includes furthering our understanding of Earth and space science, as well as developing new space technology that will enhance our space exploration capabilities.
The Virginia CubeSat Constellation (VCC) mission is a joint collaboration of science and engineering students from Hampton University (HU), Old Dominion University (ODU), University of Virginia (UVA), and Virginia Tech (VT), sponsored by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) and NASA. The mission involves the construction and completion of three 1U CubeSats, all independently designed, tested, and validated by the universities’ students. The three satellites are named after the Roman goddesses found on the reverse side of the Virginia State Seal: Aeternitas (ODU), Libertas (UVA), and Ceres (VT).
All three CubeSats will be deployed from the International Space Station and orbit the Earth in Low Earth Orbit, passing over Virginia at least every two days. There are three ground stations supporting the VCC mission at the respective universities building the CubeSats. Mission operations will be continuously monitored during the mission lifetime, which may exceed two years.
● Provide a hands-on, student-led flight project experience for undergraduate students by designing, developing, integrating, testing and flying an orbital constellation of three 1U CubeSats
● Obtain measurements of the orbital decay of a constellation of satellites to develop a database of atmospheric drag and the variability of atmospheric properties
● Develop teams of students from Old Dominion University, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia and Hampton University to work effectively under the umbrella of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC)
● Test Ultem 9085 as a CubeSat structural material
The team at Hampton University developed custom code package to analyze the data that will be collected from the constellation while in orbit.
Aeternitas, ODU’s CubeSat, has a custom chassis to accommodate an integrated deployable drag brake, as a proof-of-concept to assist in documenting orbital decay.
The UVA CubeSat team designed a custom structural element for housing the satellite’s passive magnetic attitude control system. This design has also been adopted for use in VT’s satellite.
The 1U chassis used will be made of a 3D printed material donated by Orbital ATK. The material is similar to the commercially available material ULTEM 9085.