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GSAW 2019 Evening Session

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Session 12A: EGS Evening Session

Leads: Donald Sather and Michael Campbell, The Aerospace Corporation

Description to be posted soon.


Session 12B: Building Capacity of the NextGen Ground System Professionals through STEM Programs

Lead: L. DeWayne Cecil, Destination SPACE

For GSAW 2018 a special evening session resulted from an abstract that we submitted describing our ThinSat STEM program. Since then we have added the first ever deep-space STEM mission to our portfolio and we are manifested on NASA’s SLS-EM-1 launch in late 2019 or early 2020 on a 6U cubesat. This is the first time NASA has launched cubesats into deep space and the first time anyone has performed STEM on a deep space mission.

We propose forming another special evening session for STEM and ground system development and learning and will bring student members of our ThinSat and deep-space STEM teams, described below, to GSAW 2019 for interaction with the professionals in attendance. For GSAW 2018 we brought 4 female high schools students who frankly stole the show at the evening STEM session! We propose having our students present their work with ground systems in both the ThinSat and deep-space STEM programs.

Destination SPACE, in collaboration with the Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS), Miles Space, Inc., NearSpace Launch, Inc., and Twiggs Space Lab, is working to create the first ever deep-space CubeSat STEM mission and curriculum. Destination SPACE’s goal is to inspire the next generation of students to pursue education in STEM disciplines and foster future space explorers (see As the pioneer in deep-space STEM programs, the CubeSat mission and curriculum provides students of all backgrounds a unique opportunity to design their own satellite sensors, participate in the launch, and receive data on temm ground stations as the CubeSat drifts into deep-space orbit. These young innovators are paving the way for future students to experience first-hand the wonder of space exploration.

Their journey begins with selecting sensors that will provide data that can be studied and applied to understanding the challenges of human flight in deep space, space weather, and the impacts of deep-space flight on spacecraft and hardware. Due to the intricate planning required for CubeSat and ground system construction, a handful of current students from the Destination SPACE – ThinSat and Satellite Week programs are providing suggestions and serving as mentors.

Destination SPACE focuses on minority and underrepresented student populations offering opportunities with hands-on aerospace science, engineering, and applications. To highlight a Destination SPACE success story, in March 2018, four high school students from the Destination SPACE ThinSat program, submitted an abstract and were selected to attend the Ground Systems Architecture Workshop (GSAW) hosted by the Aerospace Corporation, NASA, and NOAA at the LAX space park in California, The all-female team presented a paper on aerospace STEM in western North Carolina and its impact on their academic and career choices. They also participated as members of a special evening panel on aerospace STEM. Through this opportunity, the students were exposed to professional writing and presentation and gained an experience in networking, public speaking, and leadership all which are invaluable soft skills that they will benefit from regardless of their chosen career path. Funding for the students was made possible through the sponsorship of North Carolina Space Grant.

Satellite Week Space Camp: 2018– The 2018 Satellite Week Space Camp expanded to a residential camp hosted on the University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) campus. The curriculum was similar to the inaugural Satellite Week Space Camp in 2017 with more activities focused on teaching students about satellite technology, climate & weather science, engineering, and ground system architecture and implementation.

ThinSat STEM Program – ThinSat STEM is an after-school program designed to provide hands on remote sensing experience to high school students across Appalachia in the NASA Langley Service Region states of NC, SC, VA, WV, and KY. Through this program, students build their own sensor packages, launch tethered and free flying weather balloons with their sensors on board, and collect real time data with ground stations that they build and operate! They conduct their own research, have the opportunity to compete for scholarships, and attend professional STEM conferences; a truly once in a lifetime experience! The ultimate goal of the ThinSat program for our STEM students is the launching of their small satellites and sensor packages from the second stage of an Orbital ATK rocket bound for the International Space Station in the fall of 2018 and 2019. Each STEM team in the ThinSat programs designs, builds, and implements their own ground systems that operate with their ThinSats and interacts with the Space Data Dashboard.

Destination SPACE leads the NASA Langley Research Center’s ThinSat STEM teams and consults to the U.S. Naval Academy and Clemson University ThinSat teams.

  • Students served – ~100 students | Middle School, Junior High School, and High School, US Naval Academy and Clemson University
  • Time Commitment – 1-3 hours per week for 2-3 semesters

Deep Space CubeSat Mission – Students will work with Destination Space and our partners developing and deploying the first ever STEM CubeSat missions that will explore and measure deep space. The CubeSats will travel millions of kilometers into space collecting images, space weather data, and scientific data. Students will work with this group for 2-3 years and will incorporate a curriculum similar to the ThinSat Program. Students will interact regularly with the development team, work closely with collegiate aerospace engineering mentors, witness the CubeSat launch onboard NASA’s SLS-EM-1 mission in late 2019/early 2020, and analyze data over the year-long flight mission. In the fall of 2018, interested students will witness a live-stream of the satellite being built, will have FaceTime with the engineering team, and could potentially select three extra sensor boards to be a part of the deep-space CubeSat.

  • Students – ~100 Students | Rising or current Sophomores
  • Time Commitment – 3-4-hours bi-weekly for 2-3 years