NASA CubeQuest Challenge

This Challenge is sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate Centennial Challenge Program and offers monetary incentive to teams that are innovative in meeting specific guidelines set by NASA's CubeQuest Challenge.  This is not limited to university students. To learn more visit NASA's CubeQuest webpage.

Our Team

The University of Colorado - Earth Escape Explorer (CU-E3) project is currently offered as a graduate student course at the University of Colorado. The course is offered to allow students to obtain hands-on experience in the field of astronautics. CU-E3’s mission objective is to foster innovative CubeSat communication technologies. Our CubeSat will be attempting to communicate beyond Earth orbit at more than 10 times the distance to the Moon. This will require us to “escape” the sphere of influence of the “Earth” and “explore” deep space, thus we arrived at the name Earth Escape Explorer.

Spring 2019 Team Members 

  • Dr. Scott Palo (Principal Investigator), PhD - CU-Boulder Aerospace EngineeringCU-E3 mission patch image
  • Dr. Marcin Pilinski (Project Advisor), PhD - Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
  • John Sobtzak (Communication/RF, Technical Advisor/System Engineer) - National Center for Atmopsheric Research
  • Andrew Dahir (Managerial/Technical Student Advisor) - CU-Boulder Aerospace Engineering Graduate Student 
  • Charles Gillard (Project Manager/Navigation) - CU-Boulder Aerospace Engineering Graduate Student
  • Brodie Wallace (Systems Engineer) - CU-Boulder Aerospace Engineering Graduate Student
  • Sarah Withee (Communications Lead) - CU-Boulder Electrical Engineering Undergraduate Student
  • Chris Harnack (Structures/Integration Lead/Thermal Lead) - CU-Boulder Aerospace Engineering Graduate Student
  • Wes Caruso (Communications Member) - CU-Boulder Electrical Engineering Graduate Student
  • Gabe Altman (Communications Member) - CU-Boulder Electrical Engineering Undergraduate Student
  • Tony Ly (ADCS Lead) - CU-Boulder Aerospace Engineering Graduate Student
  • Greg Vorontsov (Safety Lead) - CU-Boulder Aerospace Engineering Graduate Student
  • Lucas Zardini (EPS Lead, PCB Design) - CU-Boulder Aerospace Engineering Undergraduate Student
  • Vishwa Sheth (Sructure Member, CAD Designer) - CU-Boulder Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student
  • Andrew Oliver (Structures Design, Machinist) - CU-Boulder Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Student
  • Aaron Aboaf (Structures Consultant) - CU-Boulder Aerospace Engineering Undergraduate Student
  • Kyle Wislinsky (Communications Consultant) - CU-Boulder Electrical Engineering Undergraduate Student

The Satellite

Check out our interactive 3D model of our satellite.

The University of Colorado - Earth Escape Explorer (CU-E3) team has competed for and won a launch spot on-board the SLS/EM-1 mission currently scheduled to launch in mid-2020. CU-E3 will be competing in the Deep Space Derby portion of the CubeQuest Challenge, which is focused upon advancing deep space CubeSat communication techniques. Using the wealth of communication knowledge and technology developed at the University of Colorado – Boulder, such as our reflectarray and X-Band transmitter, CU-E3 believes it has all of the critical components to be successful in this competition. 

CU-E3 will use a lunar gravity assist to propel itself into heliocentric orbit in order to distance itself from the Earth. Our CubeSat will enter a larger than 1 AU orbit and thus be trailing the Earth, slowly distancing itself over time. As CU-E3 travels further from Earth, our developed communication technology will be demonstrated by establishing contact with our ground station network beyond 4 million kilometers until the end of the one year mission lifetime, at which point CU-E3 is expected to achieve an Earth-Satellite distance of more than 10 million kilometers! Finally, CU-E3 will not be flying an on-board propulsion system, and will be using Solar Radiation Pressure (SRP) for reaction wheel desaturation, which will leverage innovative research being performed here at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The team will be partnering with Blue Canyon Technologies, a local SmallSat company who will be donating an XB1 system and providing various test and integration services.  

For more information, please see the "Partners" page.