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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

VIDEO: ODU’s CubeSat Deployed into Orbit from International Space Station

Old Dominion and two other Virginia university satellites, known as the Virginia CubeSat Constellation, were recently deployed into a nearly simultaneous orbit from the International Space Station.

The deployment comes after they were launched April 17 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va.

Robert Ash, professor and eminent scholar of mechanical and aerospace engineering, was the initiator and the primary advisor during the first half of ODU's CubeSat project.

"ODU's CubeSat was uniquely designed and fabricated in-house at the University by our undergraduate students," Ash said. "We are elated to observe the deployment of a project that involved about 50 of our students over the last four years."

The Virginia CubeSat Constellation mission is a collaborative project of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium and four of its member universities: Old Dominion, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Hampton. The three nano-satellites, each about 4 inches cubed and weighing approximately three pounds, were developed and instrumented (one each at ODU, Virginia Tech and U.Va.) to obtain measurements of atmospheric properties and quantify atmospheric density with respect to orbital decay.

Data collected will ultimately contribute to the scientific knowledge about orbital decay. Ground stations at ODU, U.Va. and Virginia Tech will begin making contact with their satellites. Data analysis will be conducted using a tool being developed by students from Hampton's Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Department.

"To know that all three satellites are now in orbit is extremely gratifying. Kudos to the students who have worked hard and gained immeasurable knowledge and experience from participating in this student-led mission and to the faculty who have advised them," said Mary Sandy, Virginia Space Grant director and the mission's principal investigator. "Achieving Earth orbit is a huge mission milestone. These are the first student-developed satellites in orbit for all three of the universities."

More than 150 undergraduate students across many disciplines at the participating universities have worked on the mission under the guidance of faculty advisors.

The ODU satellite, which has a drag brake to intentionally cause orbital decay, is expected to remain in orbit for up to four months. The other two satellites should orbit for up to two years at an altitude of 250 miles before burning up when they re-enter Earth's atmosphere.


The students named their satellites after the Roman goddesses on the back of the Virginia State Seal who represent the blessings of freedom and peace. Old Dominion chose Aeternitas, the goddess of eternity.

The mission has received advice from NASA, industry and academic advisors as well as guidance from NanoRacks, the world's leading commercial space station company. The project is part of NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative, which provides opportunities for small satellite payloads built by universities, high schools and nonprofit organizations. It is funded by the NASA Undergraduate Student Instrument Program and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. The Undergraduate Student Instrument Program is managed by NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore.

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