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NASA Awards $200K to UMass Lowell to Build a Satellite

Student Team Creates Spacecraft Scheduled to Launch in 2018 & Orbit Earth

SPACE HAUC-1 satellite in orbit
UMass Lowell students are designing and building a NASA satellite known as "SPACE HAUC" to test its ability to transmit data faster than similar satellites now in use. NASA hopes to launch the spacecraft into orbit around the Earth for a yearlong mission in 2018. This conceptual drawing shows the satellite with its solar panels fully deployed.

08/11/2016
By Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu and Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or Christine_Gillette@uml.edu

LOWELL, Mass. – NASA recently awarded $200,000 to a team of UMass Lowell students to design and build a satellite the space agency hopes to launch into orbit in 2018.

More than 50 UMass Lowell science and engineering students are developing the “SPACE HAUC” satellite under the direction of Physics Prof. Supriya Chakrabarti, who leads the university’s Lowell Center for Space Science and Technology. Once the spacecraft is ready, NASA hopes to deploy the satellite into orbit around the Earth for a yearlong mission to test its ability to collect and transmit research data at faster speeds than ever before possible. The satellite’s name, pronounced “Space Hawk,” is a tip of the hat to UMass Lowell’s athletic teams, the River Hawks. The acronym stands for Science Program Around Communications Engineering with High-Achieving Undergraduate Cadres.

The UMass Lowell team’s proposal to build the satellite received the maximum amount of NASA funding available through the agency’s Undergraduate Student Instrument Project. The initiative engages college students across the country to flex their technical, leadership and project-management skills by offering them real-world opportunities relevant to NASA missions. In awarding the grant, NASA called SPACE HAUC a top-notch training program.

SPACE HAUC will be what’s known as a cube satellite or “CubeSat,” which is a miniaturized, low-cost alternative to larger models. The finished spacecraft will measure about a foot in length and four inches in both width and height – about the size of a large loaf of bread – and will weigh nine pounds. Once launched, the satellite will reach altitudes between 99 and 1,200 miles while circling the Earth approximately every 90 minutes at about 17,000 miles per hour. Four solar panels will supply electricity to power the satellite’s electronics.

The project’s goal is to demonstrate the satellite’s ability to transmit data at up to 50 to 100 megabits per second – significantly faster than current models. It will collect images of the sun and return them to Earth to test its data-transmission capabilities.

“SPACE HAUC will be UMass Lowell’s first mission to actually go around the Earth and the satellite will do so many, many times during its lifetime,” Chakrabarti said.

The project’s program manager is Dat Le, a UMass Lowell mechanical engineering major from Billerica who will begin his final semester in September.

“SPACE HAUC will give me and my fellow students valuable hands-on experience in astronautical engineering research and development,” Le said.

The UMass Lowell team is comprised of 53 engineering majors in the mechanical, electrical, computer, chemical and plastics fields, along with computer science and physics students. Other project collaborators include the university’s Raytheon-UMass Lowell Research Institute (RURI) and the Printed Electronics Research Collaborative (PERC), as well as the Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium, BAE Systems and Draper Laboratory.

“A project of this magnitude and scope would not have been possible without the help and support of many parties,” Chakrabarti said.

SPACE HAUC is the latest of many UMass Lowell collaborations with NASA. In 2012, physics professor Timothy Cook, Chakrabarti and a team of students, researchers and engineers, launched the NASA-funded IMAGER rocket to observe dust formation in a remote galaxy known as M101. Three years later, the same team launched another rocket-borne experiment known as PICTURE-B to take images of intergalactic dust around the star Epsilon Eridani. And, in 2017 and 2019, a team led by Chakrabarti will use huge helium balloons to send an instrument known as PICTURE-C to the edge of the atmosphere to take images of disks of debris that are orbiting stars in the Milky Way.   

NASA is also working with UMass Lowell robotics researchers at the university’s New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center to develop the capabilities of “Valkyrie,” the space agency’s 6-foot, 300-pound humanoid robot. NASA selected researchers from UMass Lowell and Northeastern University last fall to receive “Val,” to expand the robot’s capabilities for use in future space exploration, including interaction with human astronauts.

UMass Lowell students participating on the SPACE HAUC team are listed below.

Massachusetts:

  • Barnstable – Jacob Hempel
  • Billerica – Darrien Glasser and Dat Le
  • Boxborough – Joseph Murphy
  • Burlington – Alexander Casperson
  • Canton – Liam Murphy
  • Chelmsford – Rebecca Campelli and Stephen Kender
  • Deerfield – Yusuf Yildiz
  • Dracut – Kevin Sargent and William Taylor
  • Easton – Timothy Barrett
  • Everett – Edward Finos
  • Fairhaven – Alec Golas
  • Grafton – David Paluzzi 
  • Groton – James Lynch
  • Leominster – Jeffrey Cheng, William Kammerer and Jake Maguy
  • Lexington – Matthew Dolan 
  • Lowell – Silverio Johnson, Sanjeev Mehta and Sean Webster
  • Lynnfield – Matthew Parziale
  • Mansfield – Nicholas Christo
  • Medford – Daniel Dangora
  • Methuen – Jacob Hulme, George Le and Nicholas Sacco
  • Natick – Alexander Light
  • North Andover – Sohit Pal
  • Northborough – Divyanshu Verma
  • Peabody – David Connolly and Kris Tite
  • Phillipston – Matthew Songer
  • Reading – Connor McGrory
  • Rutland – Nicholas Dean 
  • Sandwich – Joshua Hassler
  • Saugus – David Baumann 
  • Tewksbury – Michael Zurawski 
  • Tyngsborough – David Donahue
  • Westborough – Justin DiPlacido
  • Westford – Eric Carey 
  • Woburn – Mikayla Essigman
  • Worcester – Chuck Barbon and William Mann

New Hampshire:

  • Atkinson – Patrick Donegan
  • Hampton – Michael Gallagher
  • Londonderry – Clint Perry
  • Windham – Daniel Borcoche and Shyam Sheth

Colorado:

  • Boulder – William Chambers

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 17,500 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers. www.uml.edu