All systems were go -- and went perfectly -- December 8 at Cape Canaveral, with the newly developed Falcon 9 heavy lift vehicle sending into earth orbit a packet of nanosatellites, including a unit that the Viterbi School's Information Sciences Institute (ISI) and its Department of Astronautical Engineering's Space Engineering Research Center (SERC) jointly played a key role in developing.
ISI's Joe Sullivan, standing, wtih technical specialists Will Bezouska and Michael Aherne in the ISI command center.
The orbiting packet, a three-unit "cubesat" called "MAYFLOWER," is a Next Generation Technology Nanosatellite that is a joint effort between USC, Northrop Grumman’s NOVAWORKS Division and other companies. USC supplied one of the three units, named CAERUS (the Greek word for "opportunity") to support communications.
MAYFLOWER is now orbiting around the earth about every 90 minutes at an altitude of more than 300 kilometers. (see http://www.isi.edu/projects/serc/caerus)
Senior Design Engineer Tim Barrett keeps in touch with CAERUS
The CAERUS team included David Barnhart, who originated space projects at ISI, and Senior Design Engineer Tim Barrett. Technical specialists are Will Bezouska, Michael Aherne and Jeff Sachs.
Working with a host of undergraduate and graduate students from the Viterbi School's Department of Astronautical Engineering and other engineering departments, the team delivered CAERUS just 14 weeks after receiving authorization to proceed on the project.
Professors Joseph Kunc and Daniel Erwin led the campus teams from the Department of Astronautical Engineering and SERC. A joint effort between Astronautics and ISI, SERC’s expertise and student involvement provided critical support for the rapid ground-station development timeline.
"We are proud to be associated with a paradigm shift in space flight," said Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the Viterbi School.
"It was indeed a great day for USC," said Joseph Sullivan, associate director at Information Sciences Institute. “The first flight is the hardest to achieve.”
Computer graphic real time rendering showing CAERUS in orbit passing over the Pacific off Los Angeles on the afternoon of December 8, accurately tracked for position over map
"It is amazing what can be accomplished in an 'engineering teaching hospital' environment by students with a passion for space," said Kunc.
The Viterbi School and ISI will go back into space in 2011 with a different satellite project, another three-unit cubesat, this one called AENEAS, that also is being developed at ISI with SERC. CAERUS components and software are similar to AENEAS, allowing USC a very rare risk mitigation test of its hardware – the 'opportunity' referred to in the CAERUS name -- before delivery of AENEAS.