First Oregon-made satellite built by the Portland State Aerospace Society is now orbiting earth
PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - After months of research, testing, and development, the first Oregon-made satellite, built by Portland State University students apart of the Portland Aerospace Society, was launched into space this month and is currently orbiting the earth sending back data packets.
The Portland State Aerospace society is a primarily undergraduate group at Portland State University that builds small rockets and satellites.
OreSat0, made of solar panels, batteries, radios, computer, GPS, and a star tracker, has been years in the making, according to David Lay, an Electrical Engineering undergrad involved in the Portland State Aerospace Society.
“This project originally started back in 2017,” said Lay. “We started designed our own PCBs, or printed circuit boards, and we are writing all of the code on it from scratch. Once we have all the boards together, all the code is working and we make sure everything is working, we slot it into the frames of the satellite. We then do a vibe test, where we take satellite and shake it a lot to see if it still works, we put it in a vacuum chamber and see if it still works. Once we get through all the tests we then take it to our launch provider, we integrate it into a deployer, and then they launch us into space.”
The cube satellite, roughly the size of a tissue box, was launched to a 525 km sun synchronous low earth orbit aboard Astra’s LV0009 rocket on March 15, and is now orbiting the planet at 8,000 m/s. When the group began receiving data packets from the satellite, Lay says it was a massive wave of relief combined with excitement.
“We had been sitting here and watching the launch live on a projector,” said Lay. “It was also finals week at the time so everyone was already stressed out and had a lot going on. We were combing through the different ground stations that were picking up data to see if anyone had picked us up. We finally got to one that we thought was us and everyone was just super excited. Currently we are just picking up our beacon so our satellite is up there broadcasting this data on a specific frequency. The big thing we are picking up is battery voltage as well as the actual temperature of the batteries themselves.”
Lay said it took students from various programs at Portland State University to come together to create the project.
“From a technical standpoint it is almost every school of engineering and STEM working together. I’m an electrical engineer, but I work really close with our computer science students writing the code, working with the mechanical engineers to make sure the circuit board will actually fit in the satellite, as well as make sure it doesn’t get too hot or too cold,” he said. “Outside of that we are working with math and physics students to do the orbital analysis, seeing what our orbit is actually going to look like and all of the crazy physics that goes into that. Outside of the technical stuff we even have business students that come in and help us with our project management, our marketing, running our social media accounts. Bringing it all together to resemble what it actually looks like to work in a real company as opposed to doing just a lab for a class off in the corner.”
He said helping create the satellite has been beneficial to his education at PSU.
“I joined as a freshman, so I had not taken any of my main engineering courses,” said Lay. “As I was taking more and more of my courses I could look and say I saw that on ORESAT and I know how that works now. Learning all of the theory behind how the circuits actually work, ow you write some of the code, and getting to take that from the classroom and apply it to a real world scenario in parallel as I go along has been a massive benefit for me in my education.”
He said he’s learned a lot from his time as a students at PSU and as a member of the Portland State Aerospace Society.
“Nothing ever works the first time,” said Lay. “Engineering and design is very much an iterative process. How do you figure out what’s wrong with a design, how do you fix that, and how do you design a more robust system through iteration. Building off what you have done previously or what others have done previously. We have two more satellites going up relatively soon. I would like to see more satellites, bigger satellites. A lunar mission would be cool now that there are a lot of potential rideshares coming up in the near future. I’m excited for the next generation to come in and keep carrying on. It’s really cool to be a part of something that has been such an iterative process. This group has been around for over 20 years. Being able to see the technology evolve, the existing technology around it but also the designs evolving as well. Being able to look at a current design and look at historical designs and being able to see the connections between the two has been really cool.”
You can follow the Portland State Aerospace Society on Twitter and Instagram @PDXAerospace and @OregonCubeSat. To see OreSat’s location and latest data packets see OreSat Map (uniclogs-cesium-megqz.ondigitalocean.app). For more information on OreSat0 go to oresat - OreSat0.
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