Feb 21, 2011 10:52 PM by Ariel Wesler

Cal Poly project will be onboard Taurus rocket at Vandenberg

Cal Poly students are playing a role in a Wednesday morning rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Taurus XL rocket is expected to lift off from Vandenberg shortly after 2:00 a.m. Wednesday. In addition to a student project, it will carry NASA's glory satellite into orbit. Scientists will use the satellite to get more information about climate change and global warming.

Student projects from Cal Poly and across the country will be hitching a ride on the Taurus XL rocket when it launches from Vandenberg Wednesday.

"Students have developed every major component within the CubeSats, developing the circuit boards, populating the parts," said Brian Sanders, a student at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Three tiny satellites known as CubeSats have been attached to the rocket. They were built by college students in Colorado, Kentucky, and Montana. All three satellites are being housed in a device called the PPOD, built by Cal Poly students. The PPOD will deploy, sending the satellites into space and students will record the data.

Meanwhile, NASA scientists will use the Glory satellite to analyze impacts of the sun's heat and aerosols on climate change.

"This understanding is also essential for making scientifically based policy decisions that are related to environmental change," said Joy Bretthauer, a Glory program executive.

"As climate changes due to increased concentrations of aerosols, you could see redistribution of rainfall or even reductions in rainfall," said NASA Scientist Hal Maring.

Scientists say the affect of aerosols on climate is very complex and is the greatest uncertainty in their ability to predict climate. The cost of the entire Glory mission is estimated at around $424 million.

This is the first time the Cal Poly PPOD has been launched from Vandenberg. The student collaboration is all part of NASA's ELaNa missions. The goal is to give aerospace engineering students a chance to get some real hands on experience from start to finish.

In 2009, the rocket failed to reach orbit after launching from Vandenberg. NASA officials say they are confident previous problems have been addressed but are still keeping their fingers crossed.


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