Published: Nov. 20, 2015
CubeSats students

United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced Thursday it is taking CubeSat rideshares to the next level by launching a new, innovative program offering universities the chance to compete for free CubeSat rides starting in 2017. The first free CubeSat launch is going to CU-Boulder.

“ULA will offer universities the chance to compete for at least six CubeSat launch slots on two Atlas V missions, with a goal to eventually add university CubeSat slots to nearly every Atlas and Vulcan launch,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO. “There is a growing need for universities to have access and availability to launch their CubeSats and this program will transform the way these universities get to space by making space more affordable and accessible.” 

Rideshare is a flight-proven, innovative approach that provides customers a low-cost way to achieve various mission objectives without the need for a dedicated launch vehicle. CubeSats are miniaturized satellites originally designed for use in conjunction with university educational projects and are typically the size of a loaf of bread and weighing as much as a gallon of milk. 

"CU-Boulder students have been building and operating small satellites for 20 years, including the Colorado Student Space Weather CubeSat launched on a ULA Atlas rocket in 2012," CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said. "The ability to provide science and engineering students with the opportunity to fly the satellites they build is an invaluable motivational and educational tool. We are thrilled to partner with ULA, a visionary organization that is helping to facilitate a nationwide STEM effort."

CU-Boulder has launched six missions with ULA since 2006, including one that will go up in December, as well as the Mars explorer MAVEN two years ago.

Photo: Kristen Hanslik, a junior studying computer science; Naveen Penmetsa, a graduate student studying aerospace engineering sciences; and Colden Rouleau, a graduate student studying aerospace engineering, are all working on building CubeSats at CU-Boulder.