Sounding Rocket Lofts Two Student Cubesats

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An experimental sounding rocket carrying two cubesats developed by university students in Kentucky and California was launched March 27 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s eastern shore. NASA said data were received from both student cubesats, which were ejected a little over a minute into the suborbital flight at an altitude of approximately 124 kilometers.

The main purpose of the March 27 launch was to test NASA’s suborbital Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket, which features a new Malemute motor.

James Lumpp, director of the Space Systems Laboratory at the University of Kentucky and faculty adviser for the project, said in a statement that the launch marked the first time cubesats have been ejected in space from a suborbital rocket. “This capability of leveraging the cubesat satellite stand on a NASA sounding rocket could open a whole new chapter in fast, inexpensive access to space for small payloads.”

The student-built cubesats weighed around 1 kilogram apiece and were designed to test, among other technologies, hardware and software subsystems slated to fly as part of an orbital cubesat called KySat-1 due to launch late fall with NASA’s greenhouse-gas-monitoring Glory spacecraft.