As a senior in electrical engineering, Adeel Baig was looking for some hands-on project experience in his field when he joined a team at the Colorado Space Grant Consortium designing a satellite to orbit Mars. Little did he know it would hook him on a career in the space industry.
The CSGC is a NASA-sponsored program offering independent study opportunities for students in designing, building, flying, and operating real space experiments. CU-Boulder is the lead school and headquarters of the statewide consortium of 15 colleges and universities.
The Mars satellite, which will collect and analyze data on the red planet’s magnetic fields, is being developed by students from space grant programs throughout the United States in conjunction with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is expected to be the first student satellite to orbit Mars when it is launched in 2011.
Adeel will have earned his bachelor’s degree long before then, but the electrical engineering major will have the satisfaction of knowing he helped develop the power supply that allowed all the schools involved to test their components prior to integration on the satellite.
“It’s a challenging project because of having to coordinate with so many different people,” Adeel says. The power supply has to be adjustable remotely to support a range of devices, including a global positioning system, motors, fans, and robotic devices.
He and his partner on the project hope to have a prototype working by next year. In the meantime, the experience is influencing Adeel’s academic choices, steering him toward a summer course on the Fundamentals of Human Space Flight taught by retired astronaut Jim Voss and a possible focus on power electronics during his senior year.
“I knew I was interested in electrical engineering, but I didn’t know how I wanted to apply it until now,” Adeel says. After earning a master’s degree, he plans to look for work in Colorado’s space industry. Adeel was born in Pakistan, but grew up in California and moved to Colorado when his father, who also is an electrical engineer, took a job with Seagate Technology.
My father didn’t really suggest engineering as a career – he thought I should be a doctor,” Adeel says. “But I like playing around with computers, and I think it’s fun to design things and put them together.”