Bronco Space launches PROVES satellite into orbit

By Emely Bonilla, Jan. 31, 2023

On Jan. 3, Bronco Space launched their second CubeSat, a miniature satellite used in lower orbit, as part of their current project, Pleiades Rapid Orbital Verification Experimental System.  

As technology advances, more and more corporations invest money into expanding space exploration and creating new accomplishments in the field. Without major funding, it is rare for undergraduate students to create a full-fledged space mission. 

“No one at Cal Poly Pomona had ever tried to do what we are trying to do – put things in outer space, work on these really cool projects for NASA and really be a peer for the new space industry,” said aerospace engineering student Michael Pham. “We now have two things that Cal Poly Pomona students have built zooming around the planet, it is something that the whole community can be proud of.” 

Pham is the student lab director of Bronco Space and has been a witness to the start of this club and all its progress. In spring of 2019 Pham and a few other engineers took it upon themselves to fund and create the club in hopes of creating a community for passionate students interested in aerospace. 

Bronco Space is a student organization that strives to inspire both Broncos and other university students through accessible technology within space exploration. The group hosts both undergraduate and graduate students to provide them with research experience and to prove that the aerospace field is for all. 

Both Pham and aerospace student Megan Beck would agree that the achievements that Bronco Space have accomplished were not easy tasks. Space missions require academic knowledge, emotional intelligence and commitment. As the project manager for PROVES, Beck revealed how meticulous planning for a mission like this one can be. 

“Within a space program it is very difficult to obtain all the licensing and paperwork done on time, especially with such a short timeline,” says Beck. “You have to contact many governments agencies and volunteer groups to get the approval you need to get a satellite into space.” 

Image courtesy of Michael Pham

Logistics such as paperwork, tests and costs can result in other undergraduate students stunting their own passion for space exploration. A key factor in the PROVES CubeSat surrounded its price point of one thousand dollars. Kits similar to the ones being created by the PROVES project team can range from anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 .  

“With the innovation of our engineers we were able to bring our cost of making a space craft down while simultaneously making sure it was a craft that could be built quickly. Compared to other universities and corporations our kit is considered to be one of the most low-cost programs,” says Beck. 

Since the BroncoSat-1, the first bronco space mission, the club has been steadily gaining support from the university, but with such a costly field, creativity is necessary to succeed. The second CubeSat was a project that many would consider ambitious and was designed with the ultimate goal of inspiring the space community. 

“Space does not have to be so difficult and so expensive that only the best universities and the most well-funded research groups can participate in space exploration,” said Pham. “We want anyone who has the will to find a why to get something in space.” 

With the success of PROVES the team hopes that it can serve as a reference to motivate and help universities nationwide with their own space programs. Helping other aerospace students gain pivotal learn by doing experiences through a more accessible kit is what Bronco Space hopes to achieve. 

Donald Edberg, an aerospace professor, revealed how much organizations such as Bronco Space can not only help the space industry, but can help the students involved in these projects to get a job or other opportunities. 

“The work that these students did to design, prepare and launch their small space craft, which is only like the size of a loaf of bread, is the same work that has to go in a very large space craft going into orbit,” said Edberg. “What they learn at Cal Poly is directly applicable to getting a job in a place that builds satellites and launches.” 

To learn more about current and future projects visit the Bronco Space website.

Feature image courtesy of Michael Pham

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