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NASA Ames grant keeps SCU onboard satellite program
Monday, Nov. 12, 2007
"They know we're going to be working with them for quite a while," said Christopher Kitts, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the SCU's Robotics Systems Laboratory. "In essence, NASA has made a long term commitment to keep us as part of the satellite team."
Three years ago, students at SCU began developing the command and control systems for NASA's GeneSat-1 satellite and made significant contributions to its design and testing. After it launched late last year, NASA, in an unprecedented move, handed complete control of the satellite's mission operations to the students. And now, SCU engineering students and faculty members are working with the research facility on PharmaSat, abiology project that will study drug interaction in space, using small satellite technology.
"A good chunk of the funding we'll be getting from NASA will go toward personnel costs," explained Kitts. "There are a lot of people working on PharmaSat—these are hugely talented staff members, graduate and other students, who are a major element of the satellite program."
PharmaSat is scheduled to launch next summer. Once the satellite is in space, the ground team, composed of government, industry and academic partners, will continually monitor it and run it through a scientific experiment.
NASA's $2,747,336 grant to SCU ensures a continuity of funding and allows the University to maintain its participation in the satellite program. The money is specifically earmarked for the "development of small spacecraft and payload design, test and operations," said Kitts.
According to John Hines, manager of the astrobionics group at
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