The University of Maine Wireless Sensing Laboratory (WiSe-Net Lab) and AMSAT have signed an agreement to collaborate on building and operating MESAT1, Maine’s first small satellite. Carrying an amateur radio payload in addition to science payloads, MESAT1 is set to launch sometime in the next 3 years under NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI), which provides opportunities for nanosatellite science and technology payloads built by universities, schools, and nonprofits to ride-share on space launches. AMSAT President Clayton Coleman, W5PFG, celebrated the announcement.
“This is a great day for AMSAT and UMaine’s WiSe-Net Lab,” Coleman said. “This partnership is a true win-win for both education and the amateur radio community. The collaborative effort under AMSAT’s engineering and operations teams has once again succeeded to bring another opportunity to AMSAT.”
MESAT1 will be one of 18 small research satellites selected by NASA to carry auxiliary payloads into space between 2021 and 2023. The CubeSat is being developed in partnership with the University of Maine (UMaine) and the University of Southern Maine (USM), along with a trio of K – 12 schools. UMaine graduate students and USM undergraduates will collaborate on CubeSat design, development, integration, and testing.
UMaine’s WiSe-Net Lab, established in 2005, is involved in aerospace and space research. The lab was founded by Ali Abedi, KB1VJV, assistant vice president for research and director of the Center for Undergraduate Research at the university’s main campus in Orono. Lab researchers have developed the first wireless sensor network for NASA’s lunar habitation project and launched wireless leak detection to the International Space Station.
The MESAT1 initiative will enable K – 12 students and teachers in Maine to access space data for educational and research purposes and encourage students to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. MESAT1 was awarded $300,000 from NASA. The project also received $150,000 in NASA Maine Space Grant Consortium funding for graduate student research. Folding in additional funding from UMaine and USM to support undergraduate student research brings the total funding to $522,000 over 3 years.
AMSAT will provide a linear transponder module (LTM) along with integration and operational support for MESAT1. AMSAT’s LTM incorporates a VHF/UHF telemetry beacon, command receiver, and linear transponder. It will be available for worldwide amateur radio use once the satellite is commissioned. — Thanks to AMSAT and the University of Maine