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Arizona State University students design satellite to research Urban Heat Island

Posted at 4:28 PM, Nov 22, 2019
and last updated 2021-03-03 15:57:52-05

TEMPE, AZ — On November 2, the Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket blasted into space.

Its destination: the International Space Station. The rocket is carrying a payload made by students at Arizona State University and funded in part by a grant from NASA.

The payload is a cube satellite, or CubeSat, named “Phoenix.” It’s roughly the size of a loaf of bread, but with far more computing power than the space technologies of years past.

The students behind it are ready to test their capabilities after several years of development.

"The satellite is going to be sitting on its own in space. It's going to deploy its antenna, and we're going to try and command it. We're going to try to talk to it," said Jaime Sanchez De La Vega, a senior Aerospace Engineering major at ASU and Chief Engineer for the project.

The goal is to take thermal images of seven major American cities, including Phoenix, to help research the Urban Heat Island effect.

"Concrete and asphalt tend to retain the heat of the sun and heat the place. We want to know exactly why, where, and when the cities are heating up," De La Vega stated.

Once the satellite gets deployed by astronauts onboard the International Space Station in January, the team will be testing, calibrating, and hopefully, receiving data from the satellite for further research.

It’ll be a remarkable accomplishment from where the team was four years ago, according to Danny Jacobs, the faculty advisor for the team.

"Students started from knowing almost nothing about space and space hardware to proposing a mission to NASA, getting it funded, recruiting faculty mentors, and then building a spacecraft. Just delivering a spacecraft, a working spacecraft, is an amazing achievement," Jacobs said.

It’s the hope that the research gathered through the project will help better understand how our cities are heating up.

To follow the journey of the Phoenix Cubesat along with the team, click here.