UASpace to launch a satellite into orbit—first ever for The University of Alabama

Uaspace Members Holding The Drag Sail
Members of UASpace Chet Wiltshire and Abby Feeder hold a prototype of the satellite’s drag sail, that will help de-orbit failed satellites. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter, The University of Alabama)

Houston, we have an incredible accomplishment for UASpace—they will soon be launching a student-developed mini satellite into orbit. This marks the first-ever object launched into orbit by The University of Alabama. Keep reading for more about this out-of-this-world news.

Preparing for launch

Uaspace Member Working On Bama-1
Chet Wiltshire working on the BAMA-1 CubeSat. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter, The University of Alabama)

What started 3 years ago as an idea in an Intro to Aerospace class has turned into a student-made satellite that is set to launch into orbit.

UASpace, a team of aerospace engineering students, made it their mission to successfully send a student-made CubeSat to space. To brush up on your aerospace engineering lingo—a CubeSat is basically a mini satellite, around the size of a loaf of bread.

Members of UASpace have been working hard to develop BAMA-1, UA’s very own CubeSat. In 2020, BAMA-1 was selected by NASA among 17 other student-made CubeSats across the country to be launched into space in the coming years.

Its purpose is to mitigate space debris by using a parachute-like device, called a drag sail, to de-orbit the satellite in a safe and efficient manner. We spoke with UASpace President, Ian Noonan, for more on the project.

“BAMA-1 is looking to demonstrate a drag sail in low Earth orbit, so it’s going to be about 312 miles up in the air. Without a drag sail it would probably take about five years to de-orbit, which is a bit of a risk to other satellites. If one satellite hits another, it creates a lot of debris which is a very serious risk to other satellites. With the drag sail, we can de-orbit in about 50 days to five months, which really mitigates the risks of collision.”

Ian Noonan, President, UASpace

3…2…BAMA-1

Up Close Image Of Bama-1
Working on the details of BAMA-1. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter, The University of Alabama)

“The driving force behind the project was to build and launch the first University of Alabama CubeSat. There hadn’t been one built by UA that had gone to space yet, so we wanted to change that. There were some people who thought it was a little out of reach, but here we are a couple of years later.”

Ian Noonan, President, UASpace

The CubeSats are being launched on a ship called ELaNa 41 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL.

Originally scheduled for Feb. 5th, a few members of UASpace travelled to Florida to watch their project launch in person. The rest of the crew was tuning in via live stream.

That day, the launch was met with a few technical issues and was postponed to Feb. 7th. Unfortunately, according to the launch provider, there was a minor issue upon takeoff for ELaNa 41, and it has been further postponed.

For the latest updates on when BAMA-1 will take to the sky, follow Astra on Twitter.

Inspiring a future generation

Not only does UASpace do mind-blowing work in aerospace engineering, they inspire a future generation of students to pursue higher education as well.

They focus on visiting high school and middle school students in Black Belt counties of Alabama, in an effort to show them that a college education is achievable and encouraged.

“Some of those students don’t see themselves going to college. They see it as a possibility for other people, but not for themselves. We’re hoping to reach out and connect with them to show them that higher education is something they can definitely pursue—whether it’s in STEM and Aerospace or something else.”

Ian Noonan, President, UASpace

What’s next for the incredible student team? Well, they’re already working on another satellite.

With the success in their endeavors so far, I would consider UASpace’s mission, accomplished.

It’s not rocket science…to stay updated on all things Alabama, sign up for our FREE newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

Gabby Gervais
Gabby Gervais
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