VTC students send satellite into orbit - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

VTC students send satellite into orbit

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A new space project has put Vermont Technical College on the map-- literally. And the line on the map is an orbit of the satellite cube the school sent into space Tuesday night.

A lot of schools are working on this kind of project, but VTC made it happen.

"They will get it done at some point, but we are first," said Carl Brandon, a professor at VTC.

The launch was part of a push by NASA to spark an interest in science and technology in the next generation. And it worked for the students at VTC. Brandon teaches physics and rocket science. His office-- or ground control-- is based out of a storage facility turned science lab. But this is the kind of work that gets you a corner office.

"This is what's known as a one-unit cube set," said Darren Hitt of the Vermont Space Grant Consortium.

Hitt helps Vermont schools on their space-based research projects. He says the simplistic but strong design makes these cube satellites a great launching point for space exploration studies.

If you look inside, there is a lot going on. Believe it or not, this is less powerful than your cellphone.

"It has a very sophisticated GPS unit that operates in space," Brandon said. "Most GPS units turn themselves off about 60,000 feet or more than 1,000 knots of speed."

The cube is coded to take speed and velocity measurements, mapping its way around using the stars. The four-year project was an expensive undertaking, paid for mostly through grants. But this kind of hands-on work for undergrad students is priceless. Brandon says this will definitely set them apart in the job search and draw very qualified students to the school.

"We are charged with developing... the next generation of workforce for NASA," Hitt said.

This project is just the first step. Next up, they hope to land a satellite on the moon. They've got a lot of work to do and they have to act quickly! This satellite will burn up into oblivion in less than two years.

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