By Edwin L. Aguirre
If everything goes according to plan, SPACE HAUC, UMass Lowell’s first satellite
, will launch into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 3:37 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Aug. 28, from the NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Cape Canaveral, Florida.
SPACE HAUC (pronounced “Space Hawk”) – which stands for Science Program Around Communications Engineering with High-Achieving Undergraduate Cadres – was designed and built by more than 100 students from UML’s Kennedy College of Sciences
and Francis College of Engineering
over five years.
The SPACE HAUC mission aims to demonstrate – for the first time – the feasibility of a student-developed radio communication system at high data rates in the X band, using a phased array of 16 patch antennas on the cube satellite, or CubeSat.
The satellite will be part of the ELaNa 37 (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) payload for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which is heading to the International Space Station.
This week’s launch will be SpaceX’s 23rd commercial resupply mission for NASA, with Dragon delivering thousands of pounds of new science experiments, supplies, spare parts and equipment for the space station’s crew.
About 12 minutes after liftoff, Dragon will separate from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage and begin a series of flight maneuvers to reach the space station, orbiting about 250 miles above the ground. Arrival at the station is planned for Sunday, Aug. 29. Dragon will dock autonomously with the space station’s Harmony module, which is currently scheduled for 11 a.m. EDT.
After its arrival, the astronauts will unload Dragon’s cargo, including SPACE HAUC and the other ELaNa CubeSats, and stow them aboard the space station.
The Dragon is expected to spend about a month attached to the space station before it undocks and returns to Earth laden with research materials and other cargo. It will splash down in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida.
SPACE HAUC is scheduled to be released into Earth orbit from the International Space Station on Oct. 11. Once deployed, it will circle the globe on its own roughly every 90 minutes while traveling at more than 17,000 miles per hour.
The students plan to maintain a communication link between the satellite and ground stations on campus and at the MIT Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts.
SPACE HAUC is expected to stay in orbit for a year or more before it gradually loses altitude and falls back to Earth. As it re-enters the atmosphere, aerodynamic stress and heating will cause the satellite to disintegrate and burn up harmlessly, high above the ground.