Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), the largest student-run space and science advocacy organization in the world, announced that Virginia Tech’s inspireFly team is the winner of the Astranis SEDS SAT-2 competition. Astranis, a manufacturer and operator of small geostationary satellites, contributed to the cost of the launch, while competition co-sponsor Nanoracks, a leading provider of commercial access to space, will launch and deploy the winning CubeSat on the International Space Station in the next two to three years.
Open to U.S. SEDS chapters, the competition tasked teams with submitting a design for a novel 1U CubeSat. The competition kicked off at SpaceVision in November 2018, where interested teams had the opportunity to attend an Astranis/Nanoracks workshop on designing, building, and integrating a CubeSat for low Earth orbit.
Thirteen chapters from across the country entered the competition and submitted proposals. The judging panel included members of the SEDS-USA Board of Advisors and Directors, as well as employees from Astranis and Nanoracks. Proposals were judged on their technical merits, the non-technical capabilities of the team to develop and support the design, the professionalism of proposal, the novelty of the proposed CubeSat mission, and the demographic makeup of the design team and their mentors.
Virginia Tech’s team was selected as the winner for its ContentCube project, a selfie-stick for space that will take pictures of an external LCD screen–featuring publicly-submitted photos–with Earth in the background.
“The current space industry fits in a distinct niche in society; however, we felt that the industry could see exponential growth if there was personalized space access for the general public,” said Benjamin Strickler, inspireFly’s project manager and Aerospace Engineering student at Virginia Tech. “After sifting through a collection of ideas, we saw an opportunity to appeal to younger generations through our selfie-style project while also testing a new technology in the space environment.”
Virginia Tech’s proposal was hailed by the judging panel for the novelty of its concept and its technical approach of testing LCD screens in space. “We liked that Virginia Tech’s proposal was fun and practical,” said Marc Dahlberg, GNC engineer at Astranis and part of the final round judging panel. “It is more than just a slight variation on existing technologies and experiments. It really has the potential to reach a larger group of people than a normal satellite mission.”
The runners-up were the team from Rice University and the joint team from MIT, Tufts, and Northeastern.
Virginia Tech presented its work at SpaceVision, SEDS’ annual conference, in Tempe, Arizona on Saturday, November 9. The team’s ContentCube will be launched to the International Space Station via Nanoracks.
For more information about the competition, click here.
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) is a 501(c)3 non-profit that empowers young people to participate and make an impact in space exploration. SEDS helps students develop their technical and leadership skills by providing opportunities to manage and participate in national projects as well as to attend conferences, publish their works, and develop their professional network, in order to help students become more effective in their present and future careers in industry, academia, government, and education.
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