Oak Ridge middle schoolers get green light for cubesat launch

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) - NASA has assigned the Robertsville Rams a spot on a rocket for their cubesat, dubbed a RamSat, to launch into space in October 2020.

ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia visits Robertsville Middle School students who are working to become the first middle schoolers to prepare a cubesat for space with NASA.

The lead technical mentor for the project, ORNL scientist Dr. Peter Thornton, confirmed the cubesat is due July 2020 to the space program, with private carrier Northrop Grumman planning to include the satellite in its payload scheduled to launch off the coast of Virginia next fall.

The cubesat will contain a camera and computer that connects to a ground station so students can monitor forest growth in the Smokies. The mission is to track the reforestation since wildfires destroyed parts of the landscape in the Great Smoky Mountains in 2016.

With the latest update, East Tennessee's connection to space exploration is continuing with the next generation. A cubesat is a miniature satellite used for space research.

The student group, mentored by professionals at nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, awaited word for several months from NASA on which launch would send up their cubesat as secondary payload to the International Space Station.

STEM instructor Todd Livesay leads students in the RamSat project as part of the NASA Project-Based Learning course. East Tennessee's own Patrick Hull partners on the project from his post now at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Hull is a technical assistant for the Structural and Mechanical Design Branch of the Engineering Directorate at Marshall.

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