AggieSat Lab is a Student Satellite Program housed within the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. The goal of the Lab is to develop and demonstrate modern technologies by using a small-satellite platform, while educating students and enriching the undergraduate experience. Our Lab takes an integrated approach to small-spacecraft research, design-build-fly, and education for multidisciplinary teams of freshmen through graduate students, along with industry and government affiliates. Students are responsible for the whole design process from concept to end-of-mission. Students simultaneously pursue degrees and participate in a business environment with real-world deliverables, quality-assurance checks, documentation, design and safety reviews, and organization. The goal is for our students to gain hands-on mastery in current tools, systems engineering, and industry practices related to specification, design, analysis, fabrication, and testing of space vehicle systems, while actively applying and extending complementary concepts taught in classes and making critical decisions. The context for this program is in advancing small real satellites, yet the skill set learned is applicable to a wide variety of disciplines and industries.
AggieSat Lab was founded by Dr. Helen Reed, a Professor in the Aerodynamics and Propulsion Group within Aerospace Engineering. Dr. Reed brings 21 years of experience in micro- and nanosatellite design and student programs; and 37 years in hypersonics, boundary-layer stability and transition, and flow control. While at Arizona State, she founded ASUSat Lab in October 1993. That Lab then moved with her to Texas A&M and became AggieSat Lab in March 2005. She has thus far been responsible for the delivery by her students of 2 major satellites launched with the US Air Force and 1 launched by NASA:
• ASUSat1 – 13-pound nanosatellite launched on the inaugural Orbital Suborbital Program Space Launch Vehicle “Minotaur” in January 2000 out of Vandenberg Air Force Base.
• Three Corner Sat – Micro-satellite constellation launched on Delta IV Heavy Demo mission in December 2004 out of Cape Canaveral. Two of three satellites were launched and the third was delivered to the Air and Space Museum.
• LONESTAR Mission 1 (DRAGONSat/AggieSat2) – 5” cubesat released from NASA Space Shuttle STS-127 "Endeavour" on 30 July 2009. AggieSat2 operated on orbit for 230 days, up until de-orbit 17 March 2010.
AggieSat2, Texas A&M’s first free-flying spacecraft, was the first in an ongoing four-mission campaign, named LONESTAR (Low Earth Orbiting Navigation Experiment for Spacecraft Testing Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking), partnering the Aeroscience and Flight Mechanics Division at NASA Johnson Space Center, Texas A&M, and the University of Texas at Austin to promote space engineering education as well as research into novel, low-cost autonomous rendezvous and proximity operations techniques. The first three missions build in complexity and test individual components and subsystems while the final mission will culminate with the successful docking of two satellites. The first-mission requirements were to operate the Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver built by NASA JSC called DRAGON (Dual RF Astrodynamic GPS Orbital Navigator). AggieSat2 proved elements that survived long term in orbit; and highlighted areas where there is a need for increased attention to detail and care in documentation, integration and testing, and time management; and our AggieSat Lab is looking forward to applying these lessons learned to future flight programs with the NASA JSC - UT partnership. With its first flight experience completed, the Lab is looking to build experience in attitude control, expanded power, propulsion capability, expanded communications, and other spacecraft infrastructure to complete campaign requirements while continuing to educate students with real flight programs.
AggieSat Lab is open to all Texas A&M students of U.S. citizenship. Undergraduates and graduate students of all majors, who are interested in a unique opportunity not only to design a satellite, but to build it, deliver it for launch, operate it in space, and accomplish a research objective, can call us at our primary number, (979) 845-2772, or use our Contact Us page listed above.
1st Aggie Ring in Space
Civil engineering graduate Patrick Brand (’81) became the first to send an Aggie Ring into space when his father, Vance D. Brand, carried it as commander of Space Shuttle Columbia Mission STS-5 in November 1982. The Ring was on board as the shuttle completed 81 orbits –– a distance of 2,110,849 miles. Twenty-five years later, Brand donated his well-traveled Class Ring as a gift to the AggieSat Lab, personally delivering the Ring, logbook, and mission patch of the historic flight. “I felt that the students at A&M would appreciate what it meant and could gain some inspiration from it. It was only logical that it go to the aeronautical engineering department. The time was right to donate it back to where it came from,” Brand says. “Students are still awestruck with the Ring,” says Dr. Helen Reed, professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. “And it will be treasured. It serves as an inspiration and reminds us that we can achieve great things.” Brand is executive vice president of Blade Energy Partners, which has been recognized as one of the top 100 Aggie owned and operated companies in the nation.
The Ring resides in the AggieSat Lab and travels with the team including to the launch of AggieSat2 at Kennedy Space Center. The Aggie Ring is one of the most important and well-known of the University’s symbols. Texas A&M students began to receive Class Rings as early as 1889, but the current Ring design dates from 1894. Everything seen on the Ring represents an Aggie value: the large shield symbolizes the desire to protect the reputation of the University; the 13 stripes on the shield represent the 13 original states of America; the five stars on the shield refer to the phases of development of any Aggie – mind, body, spirituality, emotional poise, integrity of character; and the eagle symbolizes agility and power and the ability to reach great heights. The large star on the side of the Ring symbolizes the Seal of Texas, encircled with a wreath of olive and laurel leaves symbolizing achievement and a desire for peace. The live oak leaves symbolize the strength to fight for our country and our state and are encircled by a ribbon showing the necessity of joining these two traits to accomplish one's ambition to serve. An ancient cannon, a saber and a rifle on the other side of the Ring symbolize how citizens of Texas fought for their land and are determined to defend it. The saber stands for valor and confidence, while the rifle and cannon stand for preparedness and defense. The crossed flags of the United States and Texas recognize an Aggie's dual allegiance to both nation and state.
Saturn V Model
"Remember Robert G. Chilton, Professor Emeritus 1978-1988" adorns the base of the 1:96 scale model of the Saturn V residing at AggieSat Lab. This was one of the original models built by the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center Graphic Engineering and Model Studies Branch. Of the others, one was presented to President John F. Kennedy and one resides at MIT.
College Station Flyover
AggieSat Lab ground station team members took a break from ground station training and practice to watch a beautiful triple pass of the Space Shuttle, Space Station, and Progress Supply vehicles over College Station. This photograph shows Endeavour carrying AggieSat2 and Bevo-1 over College Station on Tuesday 28 July 2009 at about 9:14 p.m. CDT. The International Space Station can also be seen just entering the image at the time the exposure ended. AggieSat Lab members took the opportunity to shout well wishes to the satellite and enjoy the sight of NASA's youngest Orbiter with Aggieland's first satellite in tow. The photograph was taken by lab member Michael Smith with a Nikon D60 at Riverside Ground Station on a 30 second exposure.
August 12, 2014 - 7:31 am CST
The AggieSat Lab team has been very busy with the following projects:
1) AggieSat4, the 2nd mission in the LONESTAR campaign. Delivery to NASA Johnson Space Center is currently planned for Fall 2014 with launch on SpaceX 6, transport to the International Space Station (ISS) as soft stowage, and release from ISS through the airlock via Cyclops (aka SSIKLOPS: Space Station Integrated Kinetic Launcher for Orbital Payload Systems)!
2) The team just completed its participation in STARE (Space-based Telescopes for Actionable Refinement of Ephemeris), a partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Naval Postgraduate School involving small satellites with optical payloads ( STARE). The 1st mission launched on NROL-36 Atlas V on 13 September 2012 from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:39 pm CDT (2139 GMT). The 2nd pathfinder mission launched on ORS 3 Minotaur 1 from Wallops Island on 19 November 2013. AggieSat tasks included high fidelity structural and thermal models for analysis.
3) In July and August 2012, The Aerospace Corporation partnered with AggieSat Lab to place a ground station unit at Texas A&M’s Riverside campus, near the main campus in College Station. This ground station features an articulated 2 meter satellite dish and is networked together with units in California and Florida to provide command and telemetry coverage across the United States. Our goal is to learn to use and support the ground station system. This will be a resource that will contribute to missions, both for AggieSat Lab and The Aerospace Corporation.
Please contact us if you would like to join in on these exciting endeavors, gain valuable experience and skills, and make career contacts.
The team is grateful to NASA Johnson Space Center, MEI Technologies, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, The Aerospace Corporation, Air Force Research Laboratory, Sinclair Interplanetary, VectorNav, Professor Darren DePoy and Mr. Richard Allen of the Physics & Astronomy Department here at Texas A&M University, Professor Gregory Huff and his Electromagnetic and Microwave Laboratory team here at Texas A&M University, Department Head Rodney Bowersox and the Department of Aerospace Engineering here at Texas A&M University, and individuals Dr. Helen Reed, Mr. Darryl May, Mr. John Graves, and Mr. Joseph Perez for their support of our students and our programs.
Here are some recent events:
***The team is progressing with the integration of AggieSat4. Here is a prototype of the solar panels being built by the students.
***Here is a SolidWorks simulation of AggieSat4 on orbit, courtesy of Andrew Shell. NASA is preparing the mission patch for Cyclops.
***The AggieSat4 team had a very busy and productive Spring 2014. Over the Summer 2014, many of the team members are participating in some incredible internship experiences out in the profession. Back in the Lab, the team is in the process of interfacing with the NASA JSC Cyclops team for some last minute design changes to the interfacing, completing third-party battery testing, and assembling and testing AggieSat4. The Lab is very excited about Mr. Emery Annis and Mr. Brian McNeil joining from the University of Houston, and about Mr. Daanish Zaidi’s continued participation from the University of Connecticut; each is making invaluable contributions to the success of AggieSat4.
*** On 29 May 2014, Mr. William Hafer successfully defended his PhD dissertation entitled “Sensitivity Methods Applied to Orbital Pursuit-Evasion”. Congratulations, Will!
***On 28 March 2014, the team travelled to NASA JSC for a successful fitcheck of AggieSat4 with the qual unit for the NASA JSC Cyclops release mechanism. The Cyclops flight hardware is scheduled to be delivered to the International Space Station on SpaceX4 and we are planned to go up to ISS as soft-stow on SpaceX5, with release from Cyclops into orbit through the Japanese airlock. In the below picture are [left to right]: David Aly, Sig Salinas, Andrew Tucker (MS student, AggieSat Lab Chief Engineer, back row), Mitchel McDonald (front row), Andrew Shell (AggieSat4 Project Manager, back row), Michelle Gilbert (front row), James Felderhoff, Maura Cadigan, Robert Singletary.
***On 7 March 2014, the AggieSat Lab team and Dr. Reed’s Computational Stability and Transition team were privileged to host NASA JSC Flight Director Ed Van Cise and NASA Astronaut Greg Chamitoff for a tour at the Munnerlyn Building.
***The AggieSat4 team has a very busy and productive Summer and Fall 2013, and Spring 2014. Over the Summer 2013, many of the team members participated in some incredible internship experiences out in the profession and Ph.D. candidate Mr. Will Hafer was selected as a prestigious Space Scholar by AFRL at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. Over the Summer, the team was very fortunate to host Mr. Bryan Sonneveldt (Arizona State University), Mr. Cesar Santoyo (University of Florida), and Mr. Craig Wilkinson (Wichita State University) as USRG recipients, and Mr. Daanish Zaidi (University of Connecticut), and each made invaluable contributions to AggieSat4.
***The AggieSat4 team completed its Phase II Safety Review at Regents’ Park in Houston on 19-20 February 2013. . The students and Dr. Reed are grateful to NASA JSC and its contractors who are helping make launching AggieSat4 a reality.
***Everyone at AggieSat Lab wishes Lab Manager John Graves and his family the very best as they move to Houston. On 14 January 2013, John begins his new job at QTS (Qualified Technical Services), which is under contract with USA and in charge of many of the positions in flight control for USA and NASA. John will be a Communications Radio frequency and On-orbit Network Utilization Specialist (CRONUS) flight controller for the International Space Station. For John this is an opportunity to work the human spaceflight side of the business which has always been his career passion. We are all very proud of John and will greatly miss him!.
*** The AggieSat4 team, led by Electrical and Data Systems Lead Robert Singletary, presented at and successfully passed the Software Review with the Computer Safety Panel at NASA JSC on 9 January 2013.
*** Today is 6 December 2012. Consider what you were doing in 2009 and how long ago that was. Consider that AggieSat2 was launched the week of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 that year (1 day ahead of the launch anniversary to be exact). That amount of time from then to now, that feeling of time passage, is how long the manned flights to the moon lasted in history (1969-1972). Apollo 17 launched a little after midnight tonight (12:33 am EST on 7 December, just into Pearl Harbor Day) and splashed down on 19 December 1972.
*** On 5 December 2012, AggieSat4 Electrical and Data Systems subsystem member, Mark Baker, was awarded the Stan H. Lowy prize. Lowy, professor emeritus of Aerospace Engineering, endowed the award, which is presented to a student design team (airplane track) and an individual student (satellite track) in senior capstone design course AERO 402 for innovation, technical expertise, and teamwork. Mark participated in the satellite capstone track AggieSatX under the direction of David Kanipe. Congratulations to Mark!
*** On 30 October 2012, the AggieSat Lab team hosted the Critical Design Review for a payload to be tested on AggieSat4. The visitors included: Perry Ballard (USAF), Carolynn Conley (MEIT), Nathan Harnagel (USAF), Craig Lamb (USAF), James McLeroy (The Aerospace Corporation), Erik Mumm (Honeybee), Zane Singleton (MEIT), and Capt. Brent Suerdieck (USAF). Participating by WebEx were: Darryl May (LONESTAR Program Manager, NASA JSC), Scott Ritterhouse (MEIT), Dr. Fred Leve (AFRL PM), Bill Lopez.
***On 28 September 2012, the AggieSat team was truly honored to have the opportunity to enjoy a presentation by Captain James “Jim” Lovell, Astronaut & Commander of the Apollo 13 Mission. Captain Lovell was on campus to present the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation award to senior aerospace engineering student Emily Boster. Captain Lovell gave public remarks on the theme “Being Committed to Succeed” as part of the ceremony, with a brief Q&A scheduled afterward, in Rudder Theatre.
***On 20 September 2012, the AggieSat4 team participated in its Phase 0/I Safety Review in Houston. The students are grateful for the opportunity to be launched to and released from the International Space Station and for the input from NASA JSC and its contractors to help make this a reality.
***”Farewell, Endeavour, and we thank you. She was a good ship.” As part of NASA’s plan for delivering retired Space Shuttle Endeavour to its permanent home in California, the orbiter flew on the back of a Boeing 747 and made stops along the way across the country. Included on the route was a visit to Ellington Field 19-20 September 2012. Friends at NASA JSC put banners out for signing as a way to say goodbye to Space Shuttle Endeavour. Becky Sewell made it a point to make sure Endeavour got a thank you from all of us at AggieSat Lab!
After graduating in May 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering, AggieSat Lab Member, Becky Sewell, was hired by United Space Alliance (USA), contractor for NASA-JSC, as part of the ISS Operator Class 6 (OC-6). She is part of the Motion Control Systems Branch and will become a Mission Control Center operator for the ADCO group. ADCO’s, or Attitude Determination and Control Officers, are responsible for the ADC systems onboard the ISS. This includes everything from basic monitoring of the systems, executing docking/undocking maneuvers with Soyuz, Progress, and other spacecraft, to safing the system in the event of an emergency. She will be involved in a 12-18 month training process before being certified to work on console in ISS Mission Control Center, Houston. Certification will consist of detailed classroom studies, console training, and integrated simulations.
*** On Thursday 13 September 2012 at 4:39 pm CDT (2139 GMT), NROL-36, an Atlas-5 carrying a classified spacecraft and 11 other small satellites, was successfully launched out of Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Four of these other satellites are flying through NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellite program that works with schools to give students real-life experience in the space business. Institutions launching CubeSats are the University of California Berkeley, University of Colorado at Boulder, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and Morehead State.
In addition, the NRO’s Mission Support Directorate is enabling 7 satellites to fly from the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, The Aerospace Corporation, the University of Southern California, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Among these 7 small satellites are 4 that Texas A&M’s AggieSat Lab has supported directly and indirectly. Three of them are built by The Aerospace Corporation and will use the new ground station unit many of our AggieSat Lab students helped install these past two months at the Riverside campus of Texas A&M University, near the main campus in College Station. This ground station features an articulated 2 meter satellite dish and will be networked together with units in California and Florida to provide command and telemetry coverage across the United States. In the coming weeks and months our goal is to learn to use and support the ground station system. This will be a resource that will contribute to this mission and future missions, both for AggieSat Lab and The Aerospace Corporation.
The 4th small satellite, part of the STARE program with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Naval Post Graduate School, is one AggieSat Lab has supported via detailed structural and thermal analyses and integration support.
*** Dr. Gregory Chamitoff, NASA Astronaut - Johnson Space Center and Adjunct Faculty in our Aerospace Engineering Department, visited AggieSat Lab on Friday 31 August 2012 from 0930-1000. He then delivered a lecture on ‘Completing Assembly of the International Space Station - The Last Mission of Space Shuttle Endeavour’ from 1040-Noon in Room 202 of Reed-McDonald. In 1995, Dr. Chamitoff joined Mission Operations at the Johnson Space Center and was selected as an Astronaut Candidate by NASA in 1998. In 2008, he served as the Flight Engineer and Science Officer for a 6-month mission aboard the International Space Station. In 2011, he served as a Mission Specialist on the last flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Dr. Chamitoff also performed two spacewalks and he has logged more than 198 days in space.
Since AggieSat4 is to be delivered to and released from ISS, Dr. Chamitoff shared his experiences with AggieSat Lab students related to the packaging and handling of payloads on ISS from an astronaut’s standpoint. The students got several helpful tips and Dr. Chamitoff has agreed to help our students as future questions arise.
*** On 13 August 2012, AggieSat4 team members Will Hafer, Angela McLelland, Brittney Flaherty, Andrew Shell, Chris Cederberg, Mark Baker, and Gerald Fischer visited NASA JSC for invaluable DRAGON GPS training by Mr. Steve Provence and Mr. Tim Runkle.
*** On 2 August 2012, a launch attempt was made from Vandenberg AFB (California) from Space Launch Complex SLC-3E of NROL-36, an Atlas-5 carrying a classified spacecraft and 11 other small satellites. Dr. Helen Reed attended the launch attempt. Western Range Operations Control Center safety personnel identified an issue in the Mission Flight Control Center, and the launch of NROL-36 was postponed. We will be continuing to work and test out The Aerospace Corporation ground site unit at Riverside and supporting our LLNL and NPS partners.See the later news entry for 13 September 2012.
*** On 1 August 2012, the AggieSat4 team participated in a NASA web-ex on JSSOD lessons learned related to our LONESTAR project. JSSOD is the JAXA small satellite deployment system that just arrived at ISS with the docking of the HTV-3. SSIKLOPS is the “Space Station Integrated Kinetic Launcher for Orbital Payload Systems” from which AggieSat4 will be released from ISS.
*** On 28 July 2012, AggieSat students Hyder Hasan, Andrew Tucker, Robert Singletary, and Austin Probe visited the University of Texas at Austin to conduct successful crosslink tests between AggieSat4 and Bevo-2.
*** The Aerospace Engineering Department at Texas A&M hosted its first annual summer camp 22-27 July 2012 for 30 high school students. During Camp SOAR, the students worked on a variety of design projects and visiting various labs. AggieSat Lab students hosted 2 sessions on Thursday 26 July at 9 am and at 12 pm.
*** On 23 July 2012, LONESTAR Project Manager Mr. Darryl May (NASA Johnson Space Center) and LONESTAR Safety Manager Mr. Zane Singleton (MEIT) visited AggieSat Lab for a Mission Safety Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM).
*** On 10 July 2012, AggieSat Lab members were honored to host Dr. K.R. Sreenivasan for a visit to the Lab. Dr. Sreenivasan is Senior Vice Provost for Science/Technology for the Global Network University and Provost at the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Indian Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), and the African Academy of Sciences. An active researcher, he studies turbulence, complex fluids, cryogenic helium, and nonlinear dynamics, and is University Professor at NYU, with joint appointments in Physics and Mathematics. Welcome, Dr. Sreenivasan!
*** On 21 June 2012, Lab Manager John Graves and his wife Bethany became the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl named Adelyn Elise Graves. Everyone at Aggiesat Lab extends his/her best wishes and congratulations to the Graves family!
*** On 19 June 2012, Colonel Kenneth Allison ‘85, Commander and Professor of Aerospace Studies, Air Force ROTC, Detachment 805, Texas A&M University, visited AggieSat Lab for a briefing and tour, and the students were very interested to learn of his career experiences and thoughts for the future. Accompanying him on this visit were Lt. Col. Chris Cantrell, Deputy Commander, AFROTC Detachment 805 and a weather officer by background, and Lt. Col. Aaron Tucker, Ph.D. candidate under Dr. Helen Reed’s direction in Aerospace Engineering.
*** On 4 June 2012, Ms. Brittney Flaherty joined our Lab for the summer to learn to build a satellite and help with AggieSat4. She comes from SUNY Orange in Middletown, NY. Welcome, Brittney!
*** On 14 May 2012, AggieSat Lab team members Hyder Hasan, Steven Anderson, Andrew Shell, and Andrew Tucker were invited to visit College Station Middle School. They talked to 6 different class periods about space exploration and answered student questions.
*** On 10 May 2012, AggieSat Lab hosted several visitors: Perry Ballard (USAF), Craig Lamb (USAF), Erik Mumm (Honeybee), Fred Leve (AFRL TORC PM), Capt. Brent Suerdieck (USAF), Zane Singleton (MEIT), David Voss (AFRL University Nanosat Program Director), James McLeroy (Aerospace Corporation). Discussions focused on AggieSat4.
*** On 2 May 2012, it was announced that Sigma Gamma Tau (SGT), the national aerospace engineering honor society, has awarded Texas A&M student (and AggieSat Member) Steven Anderson with the 2012 Southwest Region Award. Formed in 1957, SGT seeks to identify and recognize achievement and excellence in the aerospace field. This prestigious award honors Steven as being one of the top seven outstanding Aerospace Engineering seniors in the United States, based upon his academic, service, and extracurricular accomplishments.
*** Texas A&M Sigma Gamma Tau President (and AggieSat Member), Austin Probe, presented Dr. Helen Reed with the 2012 Thomas U. McElmurry Teaching Excellence Award at the AIAA Banquet on 2 May 2012.
*** On 8 March 2012, Mr. William Hafer successfully defended his Masters thesis entitled “Improvements of PnP problem computational efficiency for known target geometry of cubesats”. Will is a Graduate Lab Manager and intends to complete his PhD with the program. Congratulations, Will!
*** On 14 November 2011, the AggieSat4 team and the Bevo-2 team travelled to NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston TX to present their Critical Design Review. The Aggies thank NASA JSC Program Manager Darryl May, area experts, and contractors for this opportunity. Delivery is planned for 31 August 2012 with launch in January 2013.
*** On 3 November 2011, the AggieSat4 team and the University of Texas Bevo-2 team participated by WebEx in their Phase 0/1 Safety Review as the next milestone in the LONESTAR Mission 2 campaign. The Aggies thank NASA JSC Program Manager Darryl May, the Safety Review Board, area experts, and contractors for this opportunity. Next up is preparation for the Critical Design Review on 14 November 2011 at the NASA Johnson Space Center. Launch is planned for January 2013 with release from the International Space Station into low Earth orbit.
*** John Graves successfully completed his MS defense on 4 October 2011. His thesis topic was “Small Satellite Applications of Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits”. He is presently the Lab Manager of AggieSat Lab.
*** On 6 September 2011, the AggieSat4 team participated in a WebEx on Risk Assessment with Jeevan Perera of NASA Johnson Space Center.
*** Everyone at Aggiesat Lab wishes Joe Perez and his family the very best as they move to Albuquerque. In September 2011, Joe begins his new job at ATA. Thanks for everything, Joe! We all will greatly miss you!.