A small, cube satellite designed and built by a team of UL-Lafayette students is finally in orbit after almost a half a decade wait. The Cajun Advanced Pico-Satellite was part of a payload that was launched into orbit at 7:30pm Tuesday night.
Five years after the project started, the satellite was supposed to launch in the first week of November, but a government shutdown pushed the date back. However, it didn't damper students' spirit as they eagerly awaited to the ten second countdown. Together with 29 other small satellites, the launch went off successfully. Then, it was time to wait again.
"We are waiting to hear from it," said CAPE-2 Project Manager Louis Courville. While some team members left Monday morning to view the launch in the flesh, others stayed at the University's Engineering building to begin communicating with the device.
"We have a big antenna on the roof," said team member Toby Jones. "We have a ground station here and we will all be waiting to talk to it."
The device had to orbit the earth once before they could receive signals. What sounds like a 90s dial-up modem, after an hour and a half, they finally received confirmation that their hard work, worked.
"We were able to hear it three times, but we couldn't properly copy it or decode it. We have another ground station with the same set-up and they were able to successfully decode a packet of information, so we were able to communicate with this thing, " explained Courville.
CAPE-2 is capable of converting text to speech, transferring files, tweeting and collecting data from buoys that will be placed in the Gulf of Mexico; buoys that are currently in the building process.
Buoy Project Manager Sabrina Bradley-Powell said, "The buoy will be taking information from its surroundings and it's going to send that packet to the satellite when it's orbiting over it and then the satellite is going to send it back to us."
Bradley-Powell expressed her excitement not only for the launch, but for the invaluable lesson she and fellow team members have learned from the experience.
"Most students don't get the chance to do something with their major while they are in college. If you sit down and do it you never know the end result and this end result is outer space."
CAPE-2 is one of 11 selected for NASA's education launch of nano-satellites, a program designed to promote technology and research. This is UL-Lafayette's second pico-satellite. The fits, simply titled CAPE, launched in 2007. The team said they are already making plans for CAPE-3.
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