On November 15th, 2015 Teachers in Space accepted registrations from 33 US schools including a coalition from Puerto Rico. Teachers from each school worked with their students to propose a CubeSat sized experiment for flight aboard the Perlan II glider. 15 judges helped TIS select 8 primary and 2 alternate experiments for build, test and flight. SpaceTEC sponsored the basic flight hardware required for these experiments. In January and February 2016 the teams are building their experiments and writing the test and operation procedures to be followed this summer by our Educator Ground Crew. In the coming months we’ll continue to post lessons, photos, videos, and data from this program so you and your students can follow along with us.
What is a CubeSat?
The CubeSat form factor was originally designed to help universities reduce the cost of sending payloads into space. The original concept was a 10cm x 10cm x 10cm cube weighing up to 1 kilogram. The design has been updated and revised 13 times since being invented. The compact size allows for a wide array of instrumentation and experiments. Using a setup as simple as an Arduino processor board, a battery and some sensors, these tiny craft can collect data about their environment.
Today the form factor is extremely popular with many working in space applications. From NASA to industry, the CubeSat has become the de facto standard for small payloads. The concept has even expanded beyond orbital satellites with groups all over using the CubeSat frame design for host of experimental research. TiS uses this form factor to bring science into school classroom from high school to elementary. Currently we have 11 classrooms working to build experiments to fly on a Stratospheric glider, heading to 90,000 feet (27,500 meters).
Where can you use CubeSats?
The CubeSat form factor lends itself to creativity in science. The pint-sized space is just big enough to work with. But what can you do with it and where?
- Classroom (Ground Level) – Use the CubeSat to hold an Arduino and a variety of environmental sensors. Connect a bluetooth 4.0 controller and have it wirelessly transmit information to the classroom computer.
- Micro-gravity Airplane Flights (6 Miles) – Test the effects of repeated exposure to low gravity / high gravity exchanges on plant or insect larvae formation.
- Perlan II Glider (17 Miles) – Look for concentrations of specific elements by sampling the atmosphere. Expose plant material to Mars like conditions to see what biological changes take place.
- High Altitude Balloons (20 Miles) – Engineer a Geiger counter to measure radiation effects on spaceflight materials.
- SpaceShipOne (70 Miles) – Measure the effects of high gravity and vibration during ascent or expose spores to the radiation environment.
- Low Earth Orbit (100 Miles) – Take a ride as a secondary payload on an orbit bout rocket such as Falcon 9. Study the upper layers of the ‘ignorosphere’ for a few weeks before rentry.
- International Space Station (250 Miles) – Design a free floating instrument package that can take images of the Earth and relay them back. The astronauts on the ISS will launch it into orbit.
We seek experiments that provide students with a good scientific basis. Novel experiments which teach scientific process are welcome. Entrants are weighted by grade level with higher grades needing to have more rigorous methods in their approach, design and implementation.
But what good is science if no one knows about it? Each of our teams working on CubeSats has a requirement to publish their work. As the teams develop their experiments, they post their progress and the result of their efforts. Just like the real world, these students learn what it takes to create a good experiment, collect the data and share the results. You can follow along with our current CubeSat participants.
Interested in bringing CubeSat science into the classroom? TiS is working with educators across the globe to develop lesson plans that let you bring the science to your own students. These plans will guide you in creating real world experiments that students can study. Compare your classroom’s results with those of experimenters around the world. Lessons can range from growing moss to sampling air to studying the Earth’s magnetic fields.
While Teachers in Space works mostly with middle and high school grades, our program is open to any grade level, from pre-K up to and including community colleges and universities.
The CubeSat form factor lends itself to all types of vehicles and TiS is working with many of them. From high altitude balloons to stratospheric gliders to sub-orbital spacecraft, we send CubeSats on a wide variety of craft and in a number of different flight regimes.
Perlan has developed a glider designed to soar at altitudes over 90,000 feet. This will set the world record for a non-powered manned vehicle. What’s cool for educators is that inside the sailplane is a payload bay that can carry up to 4 CubeSat sized experiments.
High Altitude Balloons
Imagine the view from 120,000 feet. The sky gives way to the blackness of space. The curve of Earth’s horizon looms in the distance. Little is known about this region of our atmosphere. High altitude balloon flights allow your students to experience near-space, learning about the upper layers of the atmosphere by launching and recovering your very own experiment.
Science on the Flight Line
Experimental work does not stop in the classroom. Before a CubeSat can fly, it has to be integrated into the flight vehicle. TiS Educator Ground Crew participants experience science in real time as they work to prepare CubeSats for flight. Teams on the Educator Ground Crew will follow CubeSat checkout procedures and load the experiments. Once the flight is over participants will secure the payloads. If possible, they will transmit the data collected back to the classroom for the students. This is an immersive experience that brings teachers into the science experience that they can share with their classrooms.
Our next Educator Ground Crew opportunity will take place in the Summer/Fall of 2016. The crew will be in Argentina assisting the Perlan II glider team as they strive for a world record in glider flight.
Sign up for our program today.
Teachers in Space is not alone in our endeavors. The following companies and groups believe in our mission and support TiS with opportunities, grants and expertise.