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President's Corner: April 2019

Next week, Old Dominion University will make history yet again. For the first time, a satellite designed and developed by our students will be launched into space.

The satellite, technically known as a CubeSat, weighs only 3 pounds, with sides 4 inches long. But its creation was a significant undertaking.

The satellite, which took students three years to design, will be sent into space on April 17 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore. Two other satellites created by students at other Virginia universities will be launched the same day.

More than 50 of our students from a variety of disciplines participated in this project. The team leader, Kim Wright, received her bachelor's degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering last year and will earn a master's next month.

"You learn the theory in all of your classes," she says. "But this was the true test: Can you take what you learned in the classroom and apply it to real-world problems and come up with real-world opportunities for success?"

The experience promoted collaboration on a number of levels.

Old Dominion students exchanged information with their peers at the other participating institutions - Hampton, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. They also worked with members of the local aerospace industry, further strengthening their employment prospects. Several, including Kim, already have jobs lined up after graduation.

Our students were advised by engineering professors Dimitrie Popescu and Bob Ash. The Virginia Space Grant Consortium administered and helped secure funding for the project.

The satellites are expected to arrive at the International Space Station three days after the launch. They are scheduled to be deployed from the space station in July.

Old Dominion's CubeSat, which the students have named Aeternitas, after the goddess representing eternity on Virginia's seal, is equipped with a "drag brake," which provided another challenge for the young engineers.

The "drag brake" will slow the satellite, allowing it to take more measurements of the Earth's atmosphere.

The work won't stop there, and neither will our participation: The data from the students' CubeSat will be collected at a ground station on campus.

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