Keith Hautala


College: Engineering

Sky is No Limit for Engineering Students

Published: Sep 17, 2013

See video

Video by UK Public Relations and Marketing


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 17, 2013) — University of Kentucky students are often encouraged to "reach for the stars" in establishing their goals. A group of UK engineering students have done literally just that.


In November, the satellite they built will be launched into space.


The UK students worked in conjunction with their peers at Morehead State University, under the auspices of the Kentucky Space consortium. The team put in long hours for much of the past year — in addition to their regular classes and assignments — to design, build and test the satellite, named KySat-2.


"It's a phenomenal educational opportunity," says James Lumpp, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering  and director of the UK Space Systems Laboratory. "We have had both undergraduate and graduate students working on the project, even some high school interns."


KySat-2 was built to the CubeSat picosatellite standard, which restricts its volume to one liter (about a 4-inch cube, roughly the size of a tissue box) and its mass to one kilogram (2.2 pounds).  CubeSat was created to bring small, affordable satellite technology within reach of educational and research institutions. The Kentucky Space consortium is one of a couple dozen or so CubeSat programs operating in the United States.


Yesterday, UK student and manager of the UK team, Jason Rexroat, was in Albuquerque to deliver KySat-2 in person, where it was loaded onto a carrier with other CubeSats from around the country. From there, the satellites will be transported to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, where they will be launched on an unmanned rocket Nov. 4. 


"We're one of just a handful of universities that have a program like this," said Rexroat, a UK electrical engineering graduate student who started working in the Space Systems Laboratory after his freshman year, in the summer of 2009. "It's rare for students to get hands-on experience with an actual space engineering project."


UK's CubeSat program is supported by grants from NASA, including support from the UK-hosted NASA Kentucky Space Grant and EPSCoR Programs. NASA Kentucky funds opportunities for faculty and students across Kentucky to work with NASA researchers. The students who work in the UK Space Systems Lab, many of them undergraduates, are paid employees of the university. Most other CubeSat programs are either club-based and dependent on volunteers, or they are curricular projects that involve large numbers of students working for course credit.


"We are in a fairly unique position in that we have a small number of students who are able to really dedicate themselves to work on the mission," said Steve Alvarado, an electrical engineering senior. "It has been a lot of long hours and a lot of sleepless nights."


Despite its tiny size, KySat-2 is loaded with complex electronics, including an onboard computer, a digital camera, lithium-ion batteries, solar electric panels and a ham radio transceiver. 


Once launched, KySat-2 will orbit about 500 km (roughly 300 miles) above the Earth, whizzing around the planet once every 90 minutes or so at speeds close to 8 km/s (18,000 mph). The team will be able to track its position from the ground using software. Two or three times a day, KySat-2 will be a tiny blip on the horizon over Lexington, for about 10 minutes at each pass.


During that brief window, the team will be able to make direct contact with KySat-2 over ham radio frequencies from a ground station in UK's F. Paul Anderson Tower. KySat-2 will send back data, including starfield photos taken with its onboard camera. The team will also be able to make connections at other times via Genso, a network of radio amateur and university ground stations around the world. There are also plans to use a mobile ground station to communicate with the satellite, in an educational outreach mission with local K-12 schools.


KySat-2 is the second Kentucky Space satellite to be built. KySat-1 was built over a period of five years, starting in 2006. Although fully tested and flight-qualified to NASA standards, KySat-1 never achieved orbit. The first Kentucky satellite was lost on March 4, 2011, as part of NASA's unsuccessful Glory mission.


"This is engineering in the extreme," Lumpp says. "Everything that goes into space has to withstand extreme changes in temperature, vacuum, exposure to radiation, intense vibration — virtually every sort of stress you can imagine. When you work in space you have to accept that there's going to be a certain amount of failure. It's just part of the game."


The KySat-2 team members are all too aware of the seemingly infinite number of things that could go wrong, but they try not to think about it too much. 


"We've built it to NASA standards, we've bench tested it and put it through all of its paces numerous times," Rexroat said. "Once we hand it over, it's literally out of our hands. We have to just hope for the best."


Chris Mitchell, a computer engineering senior, acknowledges that it will be a long six weeks of waiting from now until launch day.


"Each of us has a huge emotional investment in the mission," he said. "Obviously we all want it to work perfectly."


Still, Alvarado is confident that all the hard work and sleepless nights will pay off:  

"It will all be worth it for those five seconds, when we receive our first packets of data."




MEDIA CONTACT: Keith Hautala, 859-323-2396;

Internship Info Session
LNFS Presents: Dallas Buyers Club
College of Law Welcomes Trevor Potter
Dancing at Lughnasa
LNFS Presents: Notes on Marie Menken
LNFS Presents: Edge of Tomorrow
UK Jazz Ensemble/ UK Lab Band
Earth & Environmental Science Student Open House
"Nerd Night" Exhibit and Concert
"Anne Braden: Southern Patriot" Film Screening and Discussion
Dancing at Lughnasa
LNFS Presents: My Neighbor Totoro
LNFS Presents: (500) Days of Summer
Men's Soccer vs. Old Dominion
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Alabama
Dancing at Lughnasa
Kentucky Football vs. South Carolina
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Rock Climbing @ Red River Gorge
Cross Cultural Workshop 2014
Swing Dancing!
Dancing at Lughnasa
Cross Cultural Workshop 2014
UK Children's Hospital/Birthing Center Annual Perinatal Loss "Walk To Remember"
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Texas A&M
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
Resumes and Cover Letters
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
Networking and Job Search
UK Choristers
Rock Star Professionalism Series
Stillness in Motion: The Essence of Symmetry - presented by Dr. Carl Lee, Mathematics
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
LNFS Presents: Night of the Living Dead
UK Law Day
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
LNFS Presents: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Mark Berry, Guest Percussion Recital
National Depression Screening Day
LNFS Presents: Torch Song Trilogy
Dancing at Lughnasa
LNFS Presents: Shut Up and Play the Hits
LNFS Presents: Watchmen
KLJ Data Privacy Symposium
Family Weekend Check-in
Big Blue Pantry Food Drive #1
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. South Carolina
Family Weekend: Derek Hughes
Dancing at Lughnasa
Kentucky Football vs. ULM
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
UK International Tent/ Tailgate Party
CT Surgery Symposium: Advances in the Surgical Management of Cardiothoracic Diseases:
Family Weekend Tent Party
Dancing at Lughnasa
DNT 101: A Taste of the Kentucky Doughnut Trail
Big Blue Pantry Food Drive #2
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Auburn
Sunday Lunch at Historic Spindletop Hall
Men's Soccer vs. Marshall
Job Club - Social Media and Your Career
Massage on the Go
LNFS Presents: The Last Samurai
UK Symphony Band Concert
Women's Forum Conference 2014
#TrendingTopics: Pornography vs. Morality
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: The Tree of Life
LNFS Presents: Guardians of the Galaxy
UK Wind Symphony
LNFS Presents: Princess Mononoke
LNFS Presents: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Ole Miss
Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet
Paint the Town Blue
Free Kaplan Entrance Practice Exams
4th Annual Big Blue Soccer Tournament
Men's Soccer vs. New Mexico
Swing Dancing and Costumes?
Paint the Town Blue
UK Men's Chorus and acoUstiKats
Jazz Spectacular
UK Student Pajama Party
Kentucky Volleyball vs. LSU
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Florida
Paint the Town Blue
Midterm of 2014 Fall Semester
Returning to Work and Breastfeeding
Open Access Week Kickoff Event (Webcast)
Grad School 101
Royalty Showcase
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week: Preparing for Law School
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week: Grad School Panel: Surviving Your 1st Year
Film & Panel Discussion: Be Like Others
Graduate and Professional School Showcase
Your Publication, Your Choice: Choosing the Right Open Access Journal
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week
Kitty Karnival
Study Tips for Medical School
LNFS Presents: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Thank-A-Donor Day
Campus Sustainability Day
Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Information Session
Getting Into Medical School
Writing a Winning Personal Statement
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Marimbas From Hell
LNFS Presents: The Fault in Our Stars
Generation Open: Researchers' Roles in the Age of Openness
Homecoming Street Fair
LNFS Presents: Kiki's Delivery Service
LNFS Presents: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
"see blue." Day at Keeneland
Peanut Butter Drive
Pumpkin Carving Tournament
Kentucky Football vs. Mississippi State
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
UK Women's Choir and Paws and Listen
Bill Cooper Faculty Recital
UK Trumpet Ensemble
Undergraduate Research Information Session "How to Find A Mentor"
Kentucky Men's Basketball Blue/White Scrimmage
Job Club - How To Get A Job at UK: Updates on IES Applicant Tracking System
Common Reading Experience Author Lecture: Presenting Ishmael Beah
Internship Info Session
LNFS Presents: The Shining
Pinterest Party
Leadership Assessment
"see boo." Halloween Party
Society for the Promotion of Undergraduate Research (SPUR) Meeting
#UKEDTALKS: Design Thinking with Dr. John Nash
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Tennessee
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Lucy
Film Viewing and Discussion of The Other Boleyn Girl
LNFS Presents: Papirosen
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Alabama
LNFS Presents: ParaNorman
LNFS Presents: Carrie
All Hallow's Eve Concert (UK Symphony Orchestra)
Work-Life Retirement Conference
Oct 23
Career Assessment Workshop 10/23/2014

Thu, 10/23/2014

Reset Page