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Cal Poly tech to launch into space on Monday with historic LightSail 2 on board

Posted at 5:04 PM, Jun 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 20:58:58-04

The Space X rocket set to launch next week will have the latest Cal Poly tech on board, according to school officials.

The Space X Falcon Heavy rocket has a 4-hour launch window on Monday night at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Among the items on board the spacecraft will be about a dozen small satellites that Cal Poly students and aerospace engineers have worked on.

Inspecting LEO. Photo courtesy Cal Poly.

According to a press release, Cal Poly students helped install the satellites into spring-loaded boxes that will nudge them into space.

The technology includes a two-unit CubeSAT LEO (Launch Environment Observer) from Cal Poly, a softball-size satellite, a one-unit CubeSAT built by Florida high school students, that will communicate through Wi-Fi to LEO, as well as The Planetary Society’s much-anticipated LightSail 2.

KSBY News has covered news of the construction of the LightSail 2 previously.

Measuring Stang Sat. Photo courtesy Cal Poly

Cal Poly says its students have been instrumental in testing the citizen-funded project that Bill Nye (the Science Guy) has called a potential game changer for low-cost interplanetary space travel.

Bill Nye visits Cal Poly May 2016 for the Day in the Life Test of Light Sail 2. Photo courtesy Cal Poly

Once the launch occurs, there is more work to be done. Officials say the students will perform critical ground station operations for the LightSail 2 spacecraft that is about the size of a loaf of bread, working with Nye’s TPS team to unfurl the Mylar sail (the size of a boxing ring) about two weeks after launch to ultimately test the feasibility of using a sail to harness photons from the sun to propel the spacecraft.

Stephanie Wong lifts lightsail. Photo courtesy Cal Poly

Cal Poly and The Planetary Society have worked together on the LightSail project and its two spacecraft since 2010.

The payload of the nearly two dozen satellites include spacecraft built by NASA, the U.S. military, NOAA and student teams from various universities including Cal Poly, according to the release.

Additional Information from Cal Poly about the mission

Cal Poly’s two-unit CubeSAT LEO, or Launch Environment Observer, is working in tandem with StangSat, a one-unit CubeSAT built by Merritt Island High School students in Florida, to measure and record telemetry data from within the deployer box during launch.

LEO and StangSat will be among the first group of CubeSATs deployed.

StangSat’s mission will conclude once orbit is achieved; LEO’s will continue for several months, first transmitting telemetry data to Cal Poly’s ground station and then taking photos and training students for future CubeSAT missions.

About a week later — two weeks after launch — The Planetary Society will give Cal Poly students the order to deploy LightSail 2’s sails. The cobalt-alloy booms will unwind from a spindle like a carpenter’s metal tape measure, stretching the four triangular sails to form a square with Light Sail 2 at the center. Sail deployment will take about three minutes; altering the craft’s orbit will take place over a month.

This will be the third Falcon Heavy launch for SpaceX but the first to carry more than one satellite at a time.