Cal Poly Pomona’s Bronco Space team shot and landed among the stars.
The Bronco Space team achieved its first successful Yearling-2 satellite launch and orbit from the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket at the Vandenberg Space Force Base April 14. The team received data signals from multiple communication towers from Turkey, Europe and around the world to confirm a successful orbit.
When creating the Yearling-2, the objective for the Bronco Space team was to create a satellite cheaply and quickly which could transmit data communications to ground stations across the globe. The successful demonstration of Yearling-2 now gives other universities the opportunity to assemble affordable satellites to launch into space.
“We were able to get full packets of data,” said Amanda Ewing, an aerospace engineering student. . “All systems were nominal on our little boy, and it was a very, very happy room of college students.”
Designed no larger than a loaf of bread, the Yearling-2 is an improved version of the Pleiades Rapid Orbital Verification Experimental System CubeSat launched back in January but failed to detach from the vehicle.
Megan Beck, the program manager for the PROVES CubeSat program, emphasized how fast the team was able to build the Yearling-2 after the quick decision to construct another satellite.
“It was just days and nights of back-to-back staying up as late as you possibly could at the lab,” said Beck. “I don’t know of a single student team that builds satellites as fast as we do.”
From design to integration, the Bronco Space team was able to develop one of the cheapest CubeSat programs ever constructed in the timespan of 18 days at the price of $758.
Michael Pham, the project lead for PROVES, appreciated the amount of work the team put in with the resources they had.
“Here at Cal Poly Pomona, we don’t have the benefit of a space research lab that is existing and has worked with NASA in the past, everything is new,” said Pham. “But also in a way it’s good, cause we get to do things the way we want to do them. We get to bring a fresh perspective on the space industry and how we think it should be done.”
After the unsuccessful orbit of Yearling-1, the team had to adjust their design on the CubeSat and test build five different satellites to create the finished product of Yearling 2.0 for launch in April.
The Bronco Space team relied on preexisting hardware to develop the Yearling-1 satellite. As for the Yearling-2, the team created their own software in a month due to the ongoing chip shortage.
“For Yearling-2, we completely redesigned the flight computer to be our own custom architecture that we’ve called the three Pysquared,” said Nicole Maggard, lead electrical and software engineer.
Due to the success of the Yearling-2 the Bronco Space team is already working with Harvard, Standford, Columbia, and other universities to launch their version of the satellite under the PROVES CubeSat program.
“We have already started our next step, which is the Pleiades Five,” said Beck. “And that is a collaboration with five other universities plus our own group.”
The universities will submit to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative with the hopes of being able to launch all six schools’ satellites into space together.
Although the engineers for Yearling-2 will be graduating this semester, the team will continue to return to Bronco Space and help integrate and develop more projects to keep the program going.
“Strong education programs I think really have the potential to put people on a path towards careers that they would never otherwise consider,” said Pham. “I really want to try and make this educational CubeSat platform something that is sustainable and repeatable for other universities.”