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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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AggieSat 4 launches successfully after delays

Atlas+V+Rocket+Launching
Photo by Provided by NASA
Atlas V Rocket Launching

Following three cancelled launch attempts, the Atlas V rocket launched from Cape Canaveral at 4:44 p.m Eastern Time Sunday, taking with it the AggieSat 4 to the International Space Station.
The launches scheduled for the previous three days were all cancelled due to poor weather conditions. Despite there only being 40 percent chance of favorable weather Sunday, conditions were satisfactory enough and the Atlas V successfully launched and will dock with the ISS soon.
The AggieSat 4, created by A&M’s AggieSat Lab as part of a mission researching the capabilities of small satellites to communicate and rendezvous, will be stored aboard the ISS until early January, when it will be released out of an airlock to begin its mission.
Helen Reed, aerospace professor and director of AggieSat Lab, said AggieSat Lab students will take over controls after the release of AggieSat 4 along with The University of Texas’ Bevo-2, a cubesat which is stored inside of the AggieSat, from the ISS.
“Now there will be a certain amount of time required by NASA to make sure we don’t come around and re-contact — hit — the International Space Station before we will be able to release Bevo,” Reed said. “So we have got our spacecraft configured to have a timer so it won’t turn on for a certain amount of time before NASA deems it safe and we’ll be able to do our operations.”
Adelyn Destain, aerospace junior and project manager, said the AggieSat Lab team will have several mission control positions.
“In coordination with some NASA services we are going to be planning AggieSat 4 trajectory, and so we will have a team member for that, a team member to repair any updates, a team member to downlink updates, and especially analyze data from the satellite to make sure the satellite is performing as expected,” Destain said.
Mitchel McDonald, aerospace senior and attitude determination and control system lead, said they will be able to interact with AggieSat 4 between two and three times a day in five- to 10-minute windows. McDonald said the team will eventually uplink four minor software updates.
“There are certain improvements like, say, shortening the amount of time to rotate the spacecraft to a certain location,” McDonald said. “Certain things like that we can certainly improve on. That we are working on right now.”
McDonald said once the team has software available, it will uplink it using a ground station located on Riverside campus.
“Bevo-2’s deployment is one of the commands we will be uploading,” McDonald said. “But once the Bevo section of the mission is finished, we do hope to have the ability to perform other tasks such as point to a celestial object or take photographs of certain objects in space.”
Reed said AggieSat 4 will be able to maintain orbit and collect data between six months to a year.
“One thing that our representative from NASA has stated that one of the biggest factors that will affect our ability to stay in orbit is solar activity,” Reed said. “And if we see a minimal amount of solar activity we could be up there as long as a year.”
Reed said she is excited about being able to begin operations.
“The launch was perfect, and I am so proud of what the students have accomplished so far,” Reed said. “Just to get to this point has taken real dedication and commitment on everyone’s part. Now we prepare for operations.”

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