Women Breaking Barriers

By Paul Wood
The News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Each week, staff writer Paul Wood chats with a high-tech entrepreneur. This week, he chats with Dawn Haken. Haken is a leader of students working on the UI’s contribution to the CubeSail mission, a technology demonstration of the UltraSail solar-sailing concept.

The News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

Question: This sounds complicated but useful.

Answer: It’s part of the CubeSat project, an attempt to make small satellites affordable and accessible. These are standardized small satellites, and lots of universities, companies and NASA centers have been building and launching these. CubeSail is a specific mission that was originally ready to go in 2011, but did not find a launch with the desired orbit. The student team has been replacing all the outdated hardware and retesting the satellite for the expected March launch. One of the difficult things about CubeSats is getting a ride on a rocket that gets you to a specific orbit. NASA offers these rides to us when they are available. Missions are designed to be flexible about their orbit choice if possible. About 80 percent of CubeSats are taken to the International Space Station along with supplies for the astronauts, and are deployed from there. Most others are secondary payloads; they hitch a ride along with really large commercial satellites.

Question: How is CubeSail getting to space?

Answer: It would be going up on an Electron, a brand new rocket from a company called Rocket Lab. It will launch out of New Zealand, and their goal is to cover the commercial small satellite launch segment. There was supposed to be another test launch this week, which was delayed until next year. Our launch is scheduled for March 2018. This rocket is unique in that it will be carrying only a bunch of CubeSats, and no large satellite.

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