CubeSats are miniature satellites first developed by California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University in 1999. Intended as a standard, inexpensive design that can easily fit alongside larger satellites aboard launch vehicles, the CubeSat model has given student groups, hobbyist organizations, and research teams operating with limited funding or experience unprecedented access to space. CubeSats are built from a modular structure of 10x10x10cm cubes (hence the name), and feature a wide variety of commercially available off-the-shelf components designed to fit the structure from various manufacturers. Since the program’s adoption, hundreds of universities, companies, and research teams have followed the design standard and successfully launched their own CubeSats conducting space exploration, scientific research, and technology development.

The YUAA CubeSat team, led by Keshav Raghavan ’21, will design and build a CubeSat that will carry a miniature cosmic ray detector to measure high-energy particles and electromagnetic radiation emitted by distant supernovae and the galactic center. Characteristics such as cosmic ray density, energy, and classification will be collected and analyzed alongside data collected by the High Altitude Balloon project to create an altitude-varying profile of the atmosphere’s filtering effects. 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. Project leader Raghavan predicts one of the biggest challenges of the project to be securing a launch slot and contract with NASA. This year’s project team has put great focus on working through NASA requirements, presenting to academic and project review boards, and preparing to submit final applications to solidify the launch. Confident in his team’s abilities, he says, “We are going to launch a satellite into space, one way or another.”

The CubeSat project is a multi-year project now in its fourth year. Led in previous years by Betsy Li (’18), Michael van der Linden (’19), and Kathan Roberts (’20), the project is now led by Raghavan, a current Sophomore in Pauli Murray college and is majoring in Applied Math. Raghavan has previous experience as a member of last year’s CubeSat project team. “I really like the fact that this project is trying to go outside this earths atmosphere. It epitomizes space exploration and going beyond the earth. It is an ambitious project, and … it pushes then boundary of what we have done,” said Raghavan of the project. The team is receiving extra guidance and assistance from Senior Engineers Milo Brandt and co-president Andrew Krzywosz. Project Seconds are Claire Laffan (’21) (Alpha/Beta Detector Payload), Michael Linden (’21) (Power and Solar Systems), Annie Polish (’21) (Radio Communications), Lukas Baker (’21) (Mechanical Design; Sensing and Control), and Jackson Petty (’21) (Computer Systems and Programming).

Out of the many goals of the project (creating a viable payload, launching a satellite into space, etc.), Raghavan hopes that group members would “acquire a passion for aerospace, space missions, and the industry. I also hope that they acquire skills that will be useful to them in whatever career they end up in, technical, engineering, scientific, and soft skills.”