CubeSats are miniature satellites first developed by California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University. The CubeSat program started in 1999 as a way to develop design, manufacturing, product testing and other related skills necessary to create low earth orbit objects. The program allows accessibility to space exploration, scientific research, and technology development using a cubic device with 10 cm sides and a maximum mass of 1 kilogram. Since the program’s adoption, several schools and companies have taken part in the program and have successfully launched their own CubeSats based on a low cost, standard design.

The YUAA CubeSat team, led by Mikey Van der Linden ’18, will design and build a CubeSat during the 2016-2017 academic year to be launched within 2 years. The satellite will carry a miniature cosmic ray detector to measure high-energy particles and electromagnetic radiation emitted by distant supernovae and the galactic center. Cosmic ray signatures collected by the onboard detector will be analyzed alongside data from an identical detector aboard the YUAA high altitude balloon, with the goal of building a detailed profile of the altitude-varying radiation screening effects of the atmosphere. The CubeSat will also carry a basic camera to take images of the Earth. A photo set from the mission will build publicity for YUAA and serve as a fun, interesting product that nicely complements the quantitative cosmic ray data.

No undergraduate organization at Yale has launched a spacecraft, and we believe YUAA can be the first. By building our first orbital platform, we will lay the groundwork for more ambitious space-based projects by future cohorts of Yale students.