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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.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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