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Washington students to make satellite history with HuskySat-1

An example of cubesats similar to HuskySat-1 that will be sent into orbite. (University of Washington)
An example of cubesats similar to HuskySat-1 that will be sent into orbite. (University of Washington)
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SEATTLE -- Students are often told words of encouragement, such as "the sky is the limit." These University of Washington students opted to shoot for the stars instead.

“It will be exciting once it’s in orbit,” Paige Northway said in a press statement. “To me, the completion will be when we can get data from the satellite and send instructions back.”

Northway is a doctoral student in Earth and Space Sciences program at UW. She is a member of a team, working out of the Husky Satellite Lab, that took five years to develop HuskySat-1, a roughly 7 pound satellite that is smaller than a loaf of bread, according to UW. It's three cube units, each roughly measuring 3 inches per side.

“Usually people buy most of the satellite and build one part of it. We built all the parts,” Northway said. “It was a pretty serious undertaking.”

This is the first satellite crafted at the University of Washington. In fact, it's the first student-built satellite to ever launch into space from the state of Washington.

The nuts and bolts of the satellite: it features a pulsed plasma thruster which is experimental, using sparks to ignite small amounts of solid sulfur; solar panels; and a high-frequency K-band communication system. It also includes a new type of amateur radio linear transponder -- which is useful to HAM radio enthusiasts. Inside is an array of circuits and batteries. There is also a camera which was designed and built by high school students at Raisbeck Aviation High School in Tukwila.

The launch is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. eastern time on Saturday, Nov. 2 in Virginia. NASA will deliver the satellite to the International Space Station, which will hold on to it until early 2020. That's when HuskySat-1 will be sent even higher -- 310 miles above the Earth's surface. And that is where HuskySat-1 will remain ... for about three years. After that, it will lose more and more altitude, eventually burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.

But within the next three years, students in Seattle will be looking at the sky, waiting for three minute windows as the satellite passes overhead and is able to send data to them on the surface.

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Not to be left behind, Washington State University is also gearing up for its own satellite launch. CougSat-1 is slated for orbit in 2020.

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