Portland State Aerospace Society competes in collegiate space race

PSU Vanguard writes about our local aerospace team:

Portland State Aerospace Society competes in collegiate space race

Three current projects at Portland State Aerospace Society (PSAS) funnel into one ambitious goal: building a liquid fuel rocket capable of soaring to the edge of space—100 kilometers above Earth’s surface.

Tool boxes, red countdown timers, clocks set to different time zones, a workbench with satellite components and a wall of rockets surround an oval conference table. The PSAS room—located in the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science building—is a cross between an engineer’s workshop and NASA control room. PSAS members utilize the space to work on a new carbon fiber airframe, a liquid fuel rocket engine and Oregon’s first satellite as they compete in Base 11—a collegiate space race where the first team to launch a liquid fuel rocket to the edge of space wins a million dollars.

Each PSAS rocket is called a launch vehicle (LV) and is given a numeric value for every new iteration. The current rocket is LV 3.1.

“LV0 was just an off the shelf rocket kit that Andrew [Greenberg]—our faculty advisor—and a couple other people started PSAS with,” said PSAS member Jean-Pierre Pillay. “After that it went to LV1 and then LV2, LV2.1, LV2.1.3 as small iterations are made.”

The final project of the three that are funneling into the liquid fuel rocket is OreSat—the first satellite built in Oregon.

“It’s a tiny cubesat, about 10-by-10-by-20 centimeters, which is what’s called a 2U cubesat,” said David Lay, electrical systems intern for OreSat and electrical engineering lead for PSAS. “’U’ is a standard unit that’s defined by the cubesat standard.”

The plan is for OreSat to be passed along from PSAS to NASA in January 2021 then flown up to the International Space Station (ISS) in April of the same year, where it will be ejected from one of the space station’s airlocks.

Andrew Greenberg, faculty advisor for PSAS, explained in an interview that “the electronic systems that [they] built for the rockets are very satellite-like” with batteries, processors and communications gears which led to the creation of OreSat.

A primary mission of OreSat is STEM outreach. High school students are able to build hand-held ground stations that can interact with the tiny satellite’s camera.

“What they do is point it up and when we do a fly by overhead with our satellite we turn the satellite towards them and we downlink a live video feed of them from space,” Lay explained. “So we call it the 400 kilometer selfie-stick.”

Portland State Aerospace Society competes in collegiate space race

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