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Capitol Astronautical Engineering Student Projects Aim for the Skies

This summer, the Cactus-1 team, a group of engineering and computer science students at Capitol Technology University, awaited a NASA rocket launch. Another team of Capitol students, working on Project Aether, celebrated a successful balloon flight, an early milestone in their project. Both of these projects are examples of the “crawl, walk, run, fly” philosophy that drives Capitol's astronautical engineering program, in which students begin by creating a mission statement and defining their goals and objectives. They then create concepts and prototypes which they test before moving to NASA-accredited tests and sounding rocket flights with the goal of completing a full orbital mission.

The student-designed experiments set to go into orbit include an aerogel-based approach to capturing space debris and a system for controlling satellites via the Iridium constellation.

“Capitol students get a wealth of practical experience that will help them build their careers,” said Professor Angela Walters, the astronautical engineering program chair. “They have the opportunity to work on a mission that’s going to fly in space.”

“We’re in the final stretch,” said Pierce Smith, lead engineer of the Cactus-1 team, with regard to the launch of their payload. Their mission, intended to observe the effects of the Aurora Borealis on the atmosphere while testing the performance of a new insulation system, has been selected for the prestigious RockSat-X program in Norway. The RockSat-X program culminates in the project's launch aboard a rocket built for research as part of the international Grand Challenge Initiative, in which seven internationally organized rockets are launched for research.

“We proved the viability of our power boards, software, and secondary science payload," said Sam Lawson, the team’s CAD designer. “Everything is working well.”