For the third consecutive year, NNU students are participating in out-of-this-world research. Quite literally, NNU students are part of RockSAT-X, a NASA program that allows students a chance to work on researching and developing experiments that will be launched into space. Thanks to grants from the Idaho Space Grant Consortium and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and an ongoing partnership with American Semiconductor, Inc. (ASI), NNU students again have this unique opportunity to work closely with NASA and become familiar with space experimentation.
This summer, senior engineering students, Andrew Johnson (Tacoma, Wash.), Lukas Rieke (Pasco, Wash.) and Jaron Hush (Boise, Idaho), under the direction of the NNU Physics and Engineering Department Chair Dr. Dan Lawrence, are designing systems that will test the effectiveness of new technology developed by ASI under the extreme conditions of a rocket launch into space.
ASI is an industry leader in the development of flexible electronics, the technology the NNU students will be testing. To create flexible electronics, ASI takes very thin sheets of silicon and prints sensors and electronic systems onto them. Team member Andrew Johnson explains, “Imagine having a tablet that, when you want to stow it away, can be rolled up and placed in a bag.”
NNU RockSAT-X team’s role in this is to design a system that will safely carry these electronics into space, collect and store data and return them to earth. The goal is to facilitate the transportation of the ASI equipment into space, fight the extreme temperatures and vibration of launch so that the integrity of the equipment is still intact and can work as it is supposed to, then guide it all safely back to earth.
During re-entry, parts and pieces are susceptible to burning, which is just one factor the NNU RockSAT-X students had to take into account as they designed their system. On June 23, the team traveled to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to test their design. Testing of the design included a vibration test (which simulates the amount of vibration a rocket experiences during launch) in order to determine whether or not their design can withstand the force.
Johnson describes the nerve-wracking experience: “We all stand there listening to the clanking and noises, just hoping it’s not our design that is falling apart in there.” Following the testing trip, the team returned to NNU to re-design their experiment and make any necessary adjustments needed before the final launch.
On August 3, the team will head back to Wallops to see if all of their hard work has paid off. A five-minute launch of their system into space and subsequent evaluation of the results will occur on August 12. Media are invited to contact the NNU Department of Marketing and Media for more information on the project, trip and press clearance opportunities at the NASA facility.
PHOTO CAP 1: The RockSAT-X team works on experiment components;
PHOTO CAP 2: NNU RockSAT-X team pictured left to right: faculty advisor Dr. Dan Lawrence, Andrew Johnson, Lukas Rieke and Jaron Hush.
*Update as of July 23, 2014–A recent, unrelated failed launch at Wallops Flight Facility has led to a delay in the NNU RockSAT experiment launch that was scheduled for mid-August. Wallops will undergo an internal review to determine what happened and until then, the RockSAT launch is postponed indefinitely. As of now, they are tentatively planning to reschedule in December during Christmas break, as this is a time all RockSAT participating universities will be available to finish testing their experiments.