Iowa CubeSat students get ham radio licenses

AMSAT FOXThe University of Iowa reports its students will conduct a Van Allen radiation belt experiment with the AMSAT Fox CubeSat

Thanks to a proposal by the UI Department of Physics and Astronomy, a group of senior electrical and computer engineering students will reenact James Van Allen’s original experiment — this time with updated technology. Group members Kevin Klosterman KD9CPF, Bryan Senchuk KD9CPD, Tyler Dunkel KE0CHR, and Patrick Maloney KD9CPD took on the task as a part of their senior design project for the College of Engineering.

The group is trying to figure out how much energy is emanating from the Van Allen belts at a specific altitude. To measure that, they’ve built a radiation sensor attached to a circuit board that will launch into space on a small satellite. There, the radiation sensor will detect energetic particles  from the Van Allen belts. The satellite will sit in a low-Earth orbit and circle the globe every 90 minutes, some data will be transmitted in real time, but all of it is stored for later transmission.

“I feel like we’ve learned something new every day,” Klosterman says.

Not only did the students have to come up with a design concept, write the code to run the device, and build the circuit board by hand, they also had to learn and become licensed ham radio operators as well.

The satellite that the students are using to launch into space is part of the CubeSat program — an initiative supported by NASA to help give students more hands-on experience with space research — and is being constructed by AMSAT, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, whose mission is to foster amateur radio participation in space technology. The data from a full day of operating the experiment will be transmitted from the satellite as it makes a single pass over the CubeSat tracking station on top of Van Allen Hall.

The final result will be a full mapping of the radiation levels at a low Earth orbit.

It is hoped the Fox CubeSat with an FM voice transponder will be launched later this year.

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Each year 100’s of students are introduced to amateur radio through University CubeSat satellite programs with many going on to get their amateur license.


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