Space education pioneer brings student satellite program to Texas A&M
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M students will one day build and launch their own satellite, if Dr. Helen Reed has anything to say about it. Reed, who is the new head of the Department of Aerospace Engineering, plans to bring her student satellite program to Texas A&M next spring. She has already shepherded one student-built satellite launch while at Arizona State University, and she and her ASU students will watch their second satellite as it's launched into space on the back of a Delta-4 rocket Friday (Dec. 10) in Cape Canaveral, Fla. "I want to see an Aggie-built, Aggie-launched satellite in space," Reed said. "AggieSat1. We're going to do it." Reed said building the satellite is a highly multidisciplinary effort involving more than just engineering students. "Building a small satellite is like running a small company," she said. "Besides engineers, we need people to do data analysis, business majors for marketing and cost-benefit analysis, communications -- everything. I want to make sure that every student on campus who wants to be involved is involved." A space education pioneer, Reed instituted the ASU Student Satellite Program in 1993. Three Corner Sat, the satellite that will be launched Friday, is actually two satellites that work together. The satellites are the result of a collaboration between students at ASU, the University of Colorado at Boulder and New Mexico State University. The project was entirely student-managed and student-run, Reed said. The satellites weigh about 40 pounds, are about the size of a microwave, and look like a drum. The two satellites will be testing software from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory that collects data and then makes decisions based on the data and operating conditions. The satellites will also take images and perform a propulsion experiment in which water is a propellant. "We wanted to show that you can do meaningful things with small satellites," Reed said. "These satellites will have similar capabilities to larger satellites but in a smaller package." Reed joined the Texas A&M Engineering faculty Dec. 1. She taught her last class at ASU the evening of Dec. 6 and flew to College Station for a quick stay before jetting off to Cape Canaveral Dec. 8. Reed will begin work on establishing her student satellite program at Texas A&M in January. She said she sees this as a tremendous opportunity for the local community, Texas A&M former students and industry to come together to support the students who will work on the project and to see this satellite program off the ground. "The launch is provided through NASA or the U.S. Air Force, but we encourage the community and industry to join in," Reed said. "We need everyone to get involved in this. Right on the satellite will be, `Aggie built, Aggie launched.' We're going to see this happen."