Published: Aug. 22, 2017 By

CU Boulder has joined forces with universities and space agencies from around the world in an international effort to design and build small satellites as a way to train future scientists and engineers.

Participants of INSPIRE conferenceThe project, known as the International Satellite Program in Research and Education (INSPIRE), so far involves seven nations— the U.S., France, Taiwan, Japan, India, Singapore and Oman—says Project Manager Amal Chandran of CU Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), who is leading the effort.

The aim of INSPIRE is to establish a long-term academic program for developing a constellation of small satellites and a global network of ground stations, Chandran explains.

“We are training students to build flight hardware, conduct mission operations and analyze scientific data,” he says. “We see INSPIRE as a path for science and engineering students at participating institutions across the world to earn PhDs while working on multi-year space missions.”

INSPIRE partners include the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology and the Indian Space Research Organization, National Central University and the National Space Organization in Taiwan, the University of Versailles in France, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Sultan Qaboos University in Oman and the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan.

The INSPIRE leadership also is developing a three-year course curriculum on spacecraft design and space systems engineering, as well as a Master of Science degree in space technology, sciences, entrepreneurship, policy and law, Chandran says.

A recent INSPIRE meeting at LASP followed the kickoff meeting held last year in Taiwan, which resulted in a project to design and build a small “CubeSat” satellite to study the ionosphere—an electrically charged region in the upper atmosphere that can influence space weather.

The satellite and instrument consist of a series of three connected, cube-shaped objects—each about the size of a Rubik’s Cube and which together weigh about 8 pounds—built jointly by LASP, the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology and the National Central University in Taiwan. The instrument is slated to launch as a secondary payload on an Indian Space Research Organization launch vehicle in 2019. LASP is building the spacecraft to house the instrument package.

The INSPIRE project has received continuing support from LASP Director Daniel Baker and LASP Senior Advisor Mike McGrath, says Chandran.

CU Boulder’s LASP is an internationally known space research facility that has designed and built instruments that have visited every planet in the solar system, controls four NASA satellites from campus, and has designed and built multi-million-dollar instrument suites for a number of NASA missions.