NDSU Takes to Space

Students collaborate to construct a satellite.

North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota have been collaborating together on a CubeSat satellite, named OpenOrbiter 1, that is due to launch into space Aug. 1.

“OpenOrbiter 1 will be the first free-flying spacecraft designed and developed in North Dakota,” Jeremy Straub, assistant professor of computer science, said.

The CubeSat is about 10 cm by 10 cm by 11 cm and allows NDSU to test and show framework for the building of small satellites.

The systems that are used have been designed from scratch and have gone through multiple tests and revisions to reach a point where they are ready to use.

“The idea behind open sourcing the design and code to the project is to allow others to follow our lead, thereby making it easier for other teams to build their own,” Brandon Rudisel, a junior in computer science, said.

The goal behind the project is to make space exploration accessible to everyone.

It will collect temperature, current, voltage and will have a camera to record the integrity of the interior and exterior of the satellite. The data will be used to analyze how the satellite is performing, what will need to be fixed in the future and how the systems are workings.

Rudisel said his part of the project “was to research an idea called App-On-Demand, which would record the temperature of the CPU every five minutes over the course of the day.”

The project started in 2012 and “there has been untold hours of volunteered student time, paid student time and faculty and staff time devoted to the project,” Straub said.

NDSU joined the project this fall and has been focused on radio communications and the spacecraft software while collaborating with their UND counterparts.

One of the goals is to 3D print in space and the “idea is to use a small camera connected to the main computer board to capture an image of the completed object printed by the satellite,” Rudisel said.

If successful, the images captured can be applied in other areas for different purposes.

“The next steps in this process are vibration testing and a fit check in the NanoRacks deployer,” which will take place in Houston, Straub said.

After the testing in Houston, the satellite will be integrated with the NanoRacks deployer and will be packaged with other CubeSats for loading on to the rocket.

“The satellite is scheduled to be launched as part of the NASA Educational Launch of Nanosatellites 22 mission out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida,” Straub said.

Once the satellite is aboard the SpaceX-12 (Falcon 9) rocket, the rocket will dock with the International Space Station and will be attached to the outside of the ISS where it will be deployed, with other CubeSats, into free-flying Earth orbit.

“We anticipate that both schools will continue this collaboration after this first spacecraft mission is complete, for future CubeSat missions,” Straub said.

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