If it ain’t broke …


Alex Dunn (left) and Jacob Darling inspect the M-SAT team’s satellite. Photo by B.A. Rupert

After a second-place finish in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Nanosat-7 competition in January, S&T’s Missouri Satellite (M-SAT) team is already working on the next two-year design and build competition, Nanosat-8.

This time the team is focusing on enhancements to the current design.

“This is the best the team has done in the competition — we placed higher than MIT,” says Alex Dunn, a graduate student in aerospace engineering from Independence, Mo. As program manager for Nanosat-7, Dunn was responsible for logistics, documentation and communications with AFRL. “We’ve worked too hard and had too much positive feedback from the judges to start over.”

Jacob Darling, chief engineer responsible for developing, designing, testing and integrating the Nanosat-7 satellites, agrees. “We’ll stick with what was done, but we’re looking at adding infrared cameras and upgrading the communication system to a higher speed transmitter so the images download faster,” he says.

The team’s two microsatellites are designed to launch as a single unit, separate once in orbit and maintain a specific flight formation.

“Our main satellite has two cameras acting as a stereoscopic imager that work like eyes,” says Darling, a Potosi, Mo., native who is in the direct-to-Ph.D. program in aerospace engineering. “It can ‘see’ how far away the other satellite is, then use propulsion to stay close. We also have GPS on both as back-up.”

Both students hope to work with satellites after graduation. Darling is interested in being a guidance, navigation and control engineer, and Dunn would like to work for a company with a human space flight component.

Nanosat-8 will be the pair’s third run at the competition — they were undergraduates the first time. This time they’ll serve as mentors, with their “deputies” from the previous competition taking the lead.

They say that being on the team has been a great experience and that they valued the opportunity.

A lot of our students will get jobs and internships with AFRL and other companies because of this experience,” says Dunn.

“It’s really a win-win collaboration,” says Darling. “We benefit from the AFRL’s mentorship and they are developing future talent.”

By Linda Fulps
Learn about mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T.


  1. Johnathan McFarland says

    I am glad that this is being done. It sounds so great that S & T is doing so good in this competition. I hope all goes well.