Aerospace Companies To Test CU's Citizen Explorer Satellite

August 17, 2000

Note to Editors: Print and broadcast media planning on covering either event should contact Chris Koehler or Jim Scott at least one day in advance of testing.

Two Denver-Boulder area aerospace companies will contribute their time and expertise to test a NASA satellite designed and built by students at the University of Colorado at Boulder during August in anticipation of a November 2000 launch.

Engineers at Lockheed Martin Astronautics of Denver will conduct a full day of tests on the properties of the educational satellite on Aug. 28, said Colorado Space Grant College Deputy Director Chris Koehler. The team of Lockheed Martin engineers have offered their assistance and access to the company’s testing facilities free of charge for the Citizen Explorer Satellite, designed and built by CU-Boulder students at the campus-headquartered CSGC.

The Lockheed Martin engineers will test the mass properties of the satellite using a special "spin-table," said Koehler. "We need to determine what the center of gravity and moments of the satellite’s inertia will be in order to effectively control the spacecraft," he said. "The findings of this particular test will be used to help us predict how the satellite will physically interact with the launch vehicle."

The Earth-orbiting Citizen Explorer will measure atmospheric ozone and solar ultraviolet radiation as part of a larger educational effort that will involve thousands of K-12 students around the world. The 100-pound satellite is slated for launch aboard a Delta 2 rocket from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California free of charge as a secondary "piggyback" payload through a joint effort by NASA and the Boeing Co.

Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder also will conduct a series of tests on Citizen Explorer beginning Aug. 21. They include a vibration test on a special "shake-table" to assess the structural integrity of the satellite, assuring the craft can withstand the physical stresses during launch and orbit, Koehler said.

Ball also will test the electromagnetic interference the satellite’s electrical system emits. "This electromagnetic interference limits our ability to understand the parameters of the magnetic field surrounding the spacecraft, which is crucial for effective navigation of the satellite," said aerospace engineering senior Kyran Owen-Mankovich, program manager for the Citizen Explorer project.

In addition, Ball will conduct a thermal vacuum test to assess how the Citizen Explorer will behave under extreme temperatures. "It’s corporations in our community like Lockheed Martin and Ball that are willing to provide resources when necessary for the students to complete their projects leading toward the launch of the spacecraft," said Koehler.

The satellite will be placed in a circular orbit 440 miles above the Earth, allowing it to pass over the planet at 10 a.m. local time each day. The satellite will directly downlink data to receivers at participating schools worldwide, which will gather science data and evaluate global and regional ozone concentrations on a computer network.

Schools that purchase receiver antennas will become satellite ground stations for the effort and have the ability to monitor the systems of Citizen Explorer and to track its orbit. This information will then be sent to the student satellite operators at the CSGC mission control center at the CU-Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science.

"This project is going to be an educational experience on various levels," said Owen-Mankovitch. "It has provided me and many other students with an amazing opportunity, and we are taking the project to a whole new level by allowing K-12 students from all over the world to participate in an exciting study that pertains to them in a very direct way."

The CSGC consortium, which includes 17 Colorado colleges, universities and institutions, has developed workshops that will help teachers and students to better understand basic principles surrounding satellites and environmental issues such as ozone depletion and UV radiation. "These workshops will help the program develop a strong independent structure," said Owen-Mankovitch. "We want the schools involved in the project to be able to participate in a self-sufficient manner."

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