Go big or stay home?

By Donna Hesterman

UF aerospace engineers beg to differ.

Traditional satellites cost too much money and take too long to build, says Norman Fitz-Coy, director of the Advanced Space Technologies Research and Engineering Center at UF.

So much so, he says, that by the time we get them into space, they are old technology.

Fitz-Coy leads the team that has just put the finishing touches on a 4-inch cube satellite designed and built by researchers at UF’s Small Satellite Design and Development Lab. It’s the sort of technology that could be used in the future for everything from forestry management to national security.

But keeping a tiny little satellite “righted” as it orbits the Earth 300 miles away can be a challenge. Smaller satellites are cheaper to build and launch, but they also get knocked around in space. So UF’s design team came up with an innovative system that allows SwampSat to adjust its flight attitude as needed.

Systems are go for a July 2013 mission that will put the picosatellite’s attitude control system through its paces.