“Let’s Go to Space!”
Weiss CubeSat Development Team In the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, with the arrival of Mr. Kevin Simmons, middle school students were introduced to aerospace and CubeSats. The Weiss CubeSat Development Team (WCDT) was formed with the goal of launching satellite into low Earth orbit (LEO) within three years. Since then WCDT students have been dedicated to learning about CubeSats, developing relationships with aerospace Professionals, and preparing to build, test, and fly the WeissSat-1. The Weiss CubeSat Team concluded with the launch of the WeissSat-1.
History in the Making
Many born in the sixties and seventies daydreamed of becoming astronauts, ballerinas, soldiers, or actresses. The imagination and creativity of a child encourages curiosity and excitement – all potent fuels for learning.
As adults, thrilling highs and crushing lows occur less and less frequently. The euphoria so easily experienced as children is replaced by the minor blips and dips of the daily grind. So, when an educator is afforded the opportunity to bring a vision to reality, one must wholeheartedly accept the challenge. This is the story of the Weiss CubeSat Development Team (WCDT). The mission of the WCDT – with the tagline “Let’s Go to Space” – is quite simple: to design, build, test, and fly a CubeSat into space, and to do so within three years.
Monday, December 3, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. EST
SpaceX launch of the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Carrying 64 payloads, this mission represented the largest single rideshare mission from a U.S.-based launch vehicle to date. The mission was the first time SpaceX has launched the same booster a third time. Falcon 9’s first stage for the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission previously supported the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission in May 2018 and the Merah Putih mission in August 2018. Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
The overall goal of the WeissSat-1 mission, is to establish The Weiss School hardware heritage based on the NearSpace Launch FastBus by collecting inflight telemetry and validating a novel labon-a-chip for investigating extremophile bacteria viability in space.
The WeissSat-1 is a small nanosatellite form factor measuring 10cm on a side with a mass of approximately 1.33kg. A CubeSat with dimensions of 10cm X 10cm X 10cm is referred to as a 1U. Multiples of this satellite (2U, 3U,6U, etc.) are also commonly flown into space.
WeissSat-1 utilizes dual microcontrollers. The PIC microcontroller transmits 20 data packets that communicate sensor data to the CubeSat bus processor. Packets 6-18 correlate directly to the payload, and send bytes containing data on the flashes of red and green fluorescence from each bacteria. Data will be sent in hexadecimal format with 8 bits to each byte, and 20 bytes per transmission. To ensure data is successfully received by the GlobalStar Network, it will be stored in non volatile memory, and resent throughout the satellite’s lifetime.
CubeSats were intended originally for education and created by Stanford’s Bob Twiggs and Cal-Poly’s Jordi Suari-Puig (History, 2017). They developed both the CubeSat and its accompanying deployment mechanism, the P-POD.
Where a large communication satellite may span twenty plus years from design to end of its life, these small spacecrafts allow STEM university students to build, test, and fly them within four years. In the past fifteen years CubeSats have emerged as disruptive technology, and once where only nations could place satellites into orbit, now a motivated middle school, The Weiss School, will do so.
The original plan
The plan was multi-pronged and depended on early third-party validation, measurable early student successes, and building a strong sense of team and loyalty.
The experiential elements would consist of both hands-on work at the school and traveling to the University of Florida (UF) to attend workshops. At UF the WCDT met with the undergraduate and graduate engineering students from the Small Satellite Design Club. Optimal attitudes and behaviors in the younger students are more easily developed by working closely with those already in the field.