Air Force Selects Taylor Satellite for Launch

By Lindsay Robinson Published: Mar 04, 2015

When the Air Force asked Taylor’s Space Research team, “What can you do with a satellite?” the students answered with innovation and persistence rivaling that of large research universities and surpassing the work of graduate students in the competition.  

Taylor’s Space Research team’s current project, Extremely Low Orbit Space-Satellite (ELEOsat), is entering the final stage of preparation after placing fourth in the University Nanosatellite Project competition hosted by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Taylor was the only undergraduate school among 10 universities competing to be one of five selected to send a student-built nanosatellite into space.

“We’re no longer competing against larger schools,” said senior engineering physics major and ELEOsat project manager Kate Yoshino. “We’re at the point where [Air Force officials are] coming alongside us to help us complete this project . . . and understanding the maturity level of our systems.”

Taylor’s satellite team received $110,000 to assist the completion of ELEOsat.

Air Force officials visited Taylor on February 19, to evaluate the nanosatellite’s progress. They use the research and discoveries made by Taylor, and other universities in competition, for white paper studies.

“They’re true innovators,” Small Satellite Portfolio Mission Manager for the Air Force, Kyle Kimble said of the team, referencing the global star concept Taylor students implemented in their previous Taylor Satellite (TSAT). TSAT was launched by NASA last spring and used the Global Star network of satellites (generally used for communication by people in remote areas) to immediately communicate the data it collected to students via email. TSAT’s success made Taylor the first to turn a nanosatellite into a satellite phone.

With ELEOsat, the Air Force is interested in the satellite’s innovative potential. They believe ELEOsat has the capacity to solve problems that have plagued the Air Force for decades.

ELEOsat is designed to research the atmospheric properties of the ionosphere in an effort to gather new information on that region of space.  The satellite will also look into why communication frequencies used by the U.S. military are often lost in the ionosphere.

Along with its primary objectives, the ELEOsat contains an experimental ion engine designed to scoop up particles in the ionosphere and use them to generate momentum. The success of this feature could allow ELEOsat to remain in orbit much longer than most nanosatellites.

According to Associate Professor of Systems Bill Chapman, the students working on this project will continue testing the satellite for the next year. The Air Force will then put ELEOsat through its own series of tests and launch it the following year.

Each student on the team has contributed countless hours to the project—Chapman describes ELEOsat as a full-time job. 

“The project has been really rewarding, just the fact that Taylor can be represented in such a scientific field on a level with schools that are in theory out of our league—to show that we are able to keep up and succeed,” Yoshino said.

Taylor’s Space Research team will continue to pursue high-caliber projects like ELEOsat and use lessons learned in the classroom to answer questions facing researchers out in space.