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Science & Research

NASA To Launch NNU Satellite Into Space On Tuesday

Dr. Stephen Parke
Northwest Nazarene University
MakerSat-0 sits in a clean room, waiting for its space debut.

A satellite built by Northwest Nazarene University students will launch into space in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. The experiment will help NASA find out the best kind of plastics to use on future satellites.

Dr. Stephen Parke, engineering professor at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, can hardly wait for the satellite's launch.

“I’m just like a kid at Christmas,” says Dr. Stephen Parke.

Dubbed MakerSat-0, the satellite is a box, built out of different kinds of 3-D printed plastics.

“Which is a very compact four-inch cube of electronics and solar cells and science experiment equipment that literally fits in a four-by-four-by-four-inch cube,” says Parke.

Students from NNU and Caldwell High School, with help from businesses, used grant money from NASA and the Idaho Space Grant Consortium for the three-year project. If all goes well, one of the plastics may be used for 3-D printed spacecraft in the future.

“And this first satellite, MakerSat-0, is actually testing those four types of plastics to see which one is the most robust in the extreme environment of orbit, so we will be orbiting MakerSat-0 for eight years around the Earth, measuring those plastics continuously,” says Parke.

And the satellite has a second experiment designed by students from Caldwell High School that measures radiation intensity as the satellite travels through the auroras of the North and South Pole.

Parke says students from NNU and Caldwell High will travel down to Vandenberg Air Force Base to watch the launch Tuesday at 2:47 a.m.

“Probably about three hours later, after the launch, we’ll be sitting in the hotel room when the first data arrives on our cell phone and laptops and that will be an exciting moment,” Parke says.

MakerSat-0 will orbit for eight years around the poles, measuring those plastics. They’ll pick the best type for astronauts on the International Space Station to use to build NNU’s second satellite, MakerSat-1, which will be the first to be made in space out of 3-D printed parts. NNU will send parts for that second satellite up to the station on a future Space-X mission.

You can watch the launch of NNU’s satellite Tuesday morning live here.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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