Cargo ship heads to orbit with student satellite

Antares launch
Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket rises from its Virginia launch pad, sending a Cygnus cargo craft to the International Space Station. (NASA Photo / Bill Ingalls)

Northrop Grumman launched a robotic Cygnus cargo capsule to the International Space Station today, marking one giant leap for a small satellite built by students at the University of Washington and Seattle’s Raisbeck Aviation High School.

The 7-pound HuskySat-1 was among 8,200 pounds of supplies, equipment and scientific payloads packed aboard the Cygnus for liftoff atop Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket at 9:59 a.m. ET (6:59 a.m. PT) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast. Hundreds of onlookers cheered as the rocket rose into sunny skies after a trouble-free countdown.

“Good launch all the way around,” launch conductor Adam Lewis said.

HuskySat-1, which is about the size of a loaf of bread, is the UW’s first student-built satellite to go into space. It’s designed to be sent out on its own early next year, to test a new type of pulsed plasma electric propulsion system as well as a high-bandwidth communication system. The K-band communication system was built by Paul Sturmer, a former UW graduate student who now works at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture.

High schoolers at Raisbeck built HuskySat-1’s miniaturized camera system, which will send down low-resolution, black-and-white photos of Earth. Data will be transferred via antennas installed atop UW’s Johnson Hall.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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