After two failed launches, the third time's the charm. Idaho's first satellite is orbiting the earth. Not only that, it’s sending back information that will revolutionize the space industry.
The Northwest Nazarene University team waited all week to see the Delta II rocket carrying Idaho's first satellite successfully blast off at 2:37 am. Although exciting, the moment of truth would come about two hours later when the undergraduate engineering students and professors expected their first signal from MakerSat-0. But just like the double delay to launch, this too tried the team's patience. The beacon did not transmit. The team ran new calculations. The satellite needs the sun to flip it on. MakerSat-0 had deployed into total darkness. It also communicates with ground stations on earth, but that wasn’t working either. “I think the fact that we were over Antarctica explains it. We would never have expected to see data if we were over somewhere where there are no ground stations," says Mitch Kamstra, one of the engineers on the NNU team.
Fellow students, friends, and family all gathered on campus waiting patiently, hoping to witness an historic event. Then at close to 6:30am, the answer to years’ worth of hard work. MakerSat-0 is not only alive, but already running its experiments. It’s testing which plastics hold up best in space for 3-D printing. New data - a first of its kind for NASA. MakerSat-0 will stay in orbit for about the next seven years sending back data every ninety minutes. The information will be used to 3-D print cube satellites on the International Space Station.
After a round of hugs and sighs of relief, there was one last bit of advice from their NNU professor. “Here's what you need to do. Go get a good night's sleep then change your resume," says Dr. Stephen Parke. Good advice, because after shooting for the stars and getting there, there's no telling where these Idaho students will go next.