Before Tuesday evening, Carl Brandon had never seen a rocket launch. But at about 8:15, when a U.S. Air Force Minotaur I rocket took off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, in Virginia, he not only saw a launch, but the rocket carried a satellite he helped build.
Mr. Brandon, director of the CubeSat Lab at Vermont Technical College, spent the past two years with a few of his students building what’s sometimes referred to as a nanosatellite—or, specifically, a CubeSat, after a set of specifications that call for a four-inch cube that weighs about three pounds. The Vermont Tech CubeSat is one of 11 lofted into space by Tuesday evening’s launch. Nine were assembled by colleges and universities, one by a Virginia high school, and one by NASA’s Ames Research Center.
The Vermont Tech nanosatellite’s mission is to test a CubeSat navigation system that the college hopes could eventually guide a series of CubeSats to the moon. But Mr. Brandon said that the project would take far more time and more effort by multiple colleges.
“It’s neat that we could get something amazing,” he said. “And to know how much work goes into it.”
Vermont Tech, a four-year college with about 1,600 students in the center of the state, boasted that it was the first college in the Northeast to launch a CubeSat. “We’re a pretty small school, so we beat out some of the bigger ones,” Mr. Brandon said. He joked that Vermont Tech even outdistanced the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The satellite is part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites program, created to help high schools and colleges engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs. Vermont Tech’s satellite was paid for with a $195,000 grant from NASA through the Vermont Space Grant Consortium in 2009, according to Laurel Zeno, program manager at the consortium. She said addition money had come from the college, the consortium, and other sources.