PROVO, Utah — It’s taken 5 years of engineering and testing from Brigham Young University but for those students who as young men and women looked to the stars and dreamed of reaching them, their dreams are about to be a reality.
“I was young and I looked at the stars and I heard what NASA did,” Says Ben Francis the lead student working on the project. “To kinda be one of the few that has built something that has been in space is pretty special.”
The satellites are called Passive Inspection CubSat’s or “PICS” for short. They are about the size of a hand and will be orbiting the earth around 15,000 miles an hour on December 20.
These little cubes have a very practical application as Dr. David Long, Professor of electrical and computer engineering at BYU explained.
“If you want to inspect your space craft… take a picture from the outside right now that’s virtually impossible...but with the PICS Satellites…you can take our little space craft along for the ride so when you want to get a picture you just throw one out the window it takes pictures… it drifts away.”
The name for these satellites is currently “Selfie” Camera. Long explained, “A long came a smart Alec that said oh its a selfie camera and it stuck.”
The two that are the final flight P.I.C.S are just a test to see how the applications work and will launch this month from California on Virgin Galactic’s “Cosmic Girl” spacecraft.
Then students at BYU will wait for any signal coming from their hard work among the stars.
“Coming up to launch I know I will probably have a few sleepless nights” Francis said.
But for Dr. Long who has worked at NASA as well as JPL and other avenues to outer space for many years, the thrill of a successful mission never gets old and he is proud to share this one with his students.
“When we get the first data back… our first contact… we will see it once a day… downlink data get our pictures back” he said “that’s going to be an exciting day… students have worked for a long time to make that happen.”