Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, March 20, 2023

Morehead State University Students Help Launch Space Program 

Students use the Space Science Center's 3D printer for rapid prototyping of a satellite launch system.

Students from Morehead State University (MSU) are helping design, build and launch a series of four micro- and nano-class satellites as part of a collaboration between MSU's Space Science Center, Kentucky Space and the University of Rome Sapienza Aerospace Engineering School. Digital manufacturing tools such as 3D printing were used to expedite the design of a satellite launch system.

According to an MSU announcement, the four satellites (EduSat, UNISAT-5, UNISAT-6, and UNISAT-7) will be built in Rome and Morehead and integrated at the University of Rome. After launching on Russian Dnepr rockets from Russia and Kazakhstan, the satellites will be controlled by students at the University of Rome and MSU. Students from these schools were also responsible for designing the satellite’s mechanical systems, electronics systems, and software systems.

In the first first mission, an innovative microsatellite, called EduSat, will be launched from Yasny Russia on July 7. The satellite will be used to test an orbital deployer for use with releasing the next-phase femto-class satellites, known as PocketQubs. The orbital deployers, which go by the acronym MRFODs (Morehead–Roma Femtosatellite Orbital Deployers), were designed and built by MSU undergraduate students to provide a reliable and adaptable deployment system for the PocketQub standard.

To speed prototyping of the MRFOD design, the students employed the Space Science Center's 3D printer. A subset of additive manufacturing, 3D printing facilitates the engineering design process by providing a shortcut to rapid prototyping. 3D printed models of the orbital deployers were instrumental in their development and testing, and ultimately allowed the students to produce working models of the MRFODs in less than nine months.

The announcement notes that "using traditional manufacturing processes for prototyping the engineering models would have taken significantly longer and would have cost several times as much to produce."

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