MEDIA ADVISORY — SpaceX Launch Set for Monday Night, June 24, Includes CubeSAT from Cal Poly
What: Cal Poly students will see LEO, their latest CubeSAT, launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as early as Monday night from NASA’s historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The megarocket — the most powerful launch vehicle currently in operation — also will be carrying 23 different satellites for the Air Force’s Space Test Program-2 mission. Cal Poly students and aerospace engineers have worked on about a dozen of these small satellites, helping install them in the spring-loaded boxes that will nudge them into space.
These include a softball-size satellite, built by Florida high school students, that will communicate through Wi-Fi to LEO, as well as The Planetary Society’s much-anticipated LightSail 2. Cal Poly students have been instrumental in testing the citizen-funded project that Bill Nye (the Science Guy) has called a potential game changer for low-cost interplanetary space travel. And the students will perform critical ground station operations for the spacecraft that is about the size of a loaf of bread, working with Nye’s TPS team to unfurl the Mylar sail (the size of a boxing ring) about two weeks after launch to ultimately test the feasibility of using a sail to harness photons from the sun to propel the spacecraft. (Cal Poly and The Planetary Society have worked together on the LightSail project and its two spacecraft since 2010.
When: The STP-2 mission is scheduled to launch sometime during a four-hour window that opens Monday night at 8:30 p.m. PDT. It will be the third Falcon Heavy launch for SpaceX but the first to carry more than one satellite at time.
Where: Kennedy Space Center, Florida
More Information: The STP-2 launch will demonstrate the capabilities of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle and provide critical data for future National Security Space Launch missions. In addition, U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center is using this as a pathfinder for the development of mission assurance policies and procedures related to the reuse of launch vehicle boosters. The payload of two dozen satellites include spacecraft built by NASA, the U.S. military, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and student teams from universities including Cal Poly. They include a NASA atomic clock, a satellite to test “green” spacecraft propellant and the LightSail 2, which will test “flight by light.” Cal Poly’s two-unit CubeSAT LEO, or Launch Environment Observer, is working in tandem with StangSat, a one-unit CubeSAT built by Merritt Island High School students in Florida, to measure and record telemetry data from within the deployer box during launch. StangSat’s mission will conclude once orbit is achieved; LEO’s will continue for several months, first transmitting telemetry data to Cal Poly’s ground station and then taking photos and training students for future CubeSAT missions.
The STP-2 mission will be among the most-challenging in SpaceX history. The rocket must complete four separate upper-stage engine burns to achieve three separate deployment orbits (of 300, 720 and 6,000 kilometers), a final maneuver to reduce upper-stage propellant and a total mission duration of more than six hours. LEO and StangSat will be among the first group of CubeSATs deployed. LightSail 2, contained within the Prox-1 satellite, which was designed by Georgia Tech students, will be the first released during the second higher-orbit deployment. The pair will spend a week circling the Earth, allowing Prox-1 to drift away from other satellites and be identified by ground station monitors. On day seven, LightSail 2 will be ejected into space; the spacecraft will then boot up, deploy solar panels and antenna, and begin communicating with the ground team. About a week later — two weeks after launch — The Planetary Society will give Cal Poly students the order to deploy LightSail 2’s sails. The cobalt-alloy booms will unwind from a spindle like a carpenter’s metal tape measure, stretching the four triangular sails to form a square with Light Sail 2 at the center. Sail deployment will take about three minutes; altering the craft’s orbit will take place over a month.
We’ve included images and b-roll video of the May 2019 integration of LEO and StangSat, as well images from the LightSail 2 integration in 2018 and an image of Bill Nye’s May 2016 visit to Cal Poly for the Day in the Life Test of Light Sail 2:
For more on LEO, visit http://www.polysat.org/in-development
For more on LightSail 2 including links to images and video clips from The Planetary Society, visit: http://www.planetary.org/explore/projects/lightsail-solar-sailing/
Contact: Jay Thompson
June 21, 2019