UTEP and Local High School Students Win United Launch Alliance CubeSat Competition

Last Updated on February 14, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Originally published February 14, 2017

By UC Communications

UTEP Communications

Students from the NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research, or cSETR, at The University of Texas at El Paso have been selected as first place winners of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) CubeSat launch competition, known as CubeCorps. Their project, Orbital Factory II (OF2), will be launched on board the Atlas V rocket and placed into an elliptical orbit approximately 26,000 miles above Earth’s center.

Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., Salvatore “T”. Bruno and Diana Natalicio stand with the winning CubeSat Team. Photo: J.R. Hernandez/UTEP Communications

ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno traveled to El Paso and made the announcement Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 on the UTEP campus.

"I am thrilled to announce The University of Texas El Paso as the first place winner of our CubeCorps competition," Bruno said. “Congratulations to the team; you are the next generation of rocket scientists and space entrepreneurs, and we are honored to be your ride to space.”

ULA’s CubeCorps was established to encourage hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) experiences and provide universities with the opportunity to launch their CubeSats. This low-cost approach will make space more affordable and accessible.

Students and faculty members from UTEP’s Department of Mechanical Engineering will collaborate with engineers and technologists from Lockheed Martin Space Systems to design and develop the OF2, which will demonstrate on-orbit repair of solar cells using 3-D printing technology. The UTEP student team was led by research assistant professors Angel Flores-Abed, Ph.D., and Arifur Khan, Ph.D., cSETR research engineer Michael Everett, and David Espalin, associate director at the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation.

UTEP’s CubeSat development initiative is a strategic partnership between its Keck Center for 3D Innovation and cSETR.

“Our goal is to quickly position ourselves as a leader of this rapidly emerging area to bring more opportunities for our students,” said Department of Mechanical Engineering Chair and Director of cSETR Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D. “Although there are other major university players, our strategic strength in additive manufacturing and in-space propulsion makes us a formidable team.”

ULA is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider, successfully delivering more than 115 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of the solar system.

UTEP’s second CubeSat project, Orbital Factory I (OF1), is giving students from Bowie and Burges high schools and Hornedo Middle School the opportunity to work alongside University researchers to demonstrate robotic manipulations using a CubeSat platform. OF1 was the second place finisher of the Boston Museum of Science Fiction and New York NASA Space Grant Consortium High School CubeSat Competition.

More K-12 learning opportunities will be included in the development and testing of CubeSats as part of cSETR’s commitment to engineering education at all ages.