The first space satellite designed and built in West Virginia was to begin a five-year, 310-mile high orbit of Earth starting at 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Wednesday from a launch site near Mahia, New Zealand, according to NASA’s Fairmont-based Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Program.
West Virginia’s cube-shaped satellite, named Simulation to Flight, has joined 10 other cube satellites produced at states across the country aboard the launch vehicle Electron, owned by the private company Rocket Lab, at its launch complex on New Zealand’s North Island.
The primary goal of the mission is to demonstrate the capabilities of the software-only simulation environments developed by NASA’s IV&V program.
The mission will also conduct a set of science experiments developed by West Virginia University students and faculty dealing with space weather, and the durability of Nitride-based materials in space to see how much shielding will be needed to protect the viability of future long-term experiments in space.
A probe and radio sounder will be used by a WVU Physics and Astronomy team to measure electron density and temperature of the ionosphere, and to collect plasma density and measure magnetic fields. Particle counters will be used to detect high fluxes of precipitating electrons.
Work on the Simulation to Flight project began in February 2015 as a collaborative effort between the West Virginia Space Grant Consortium, NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation program, WVU and a group of West Virginia small businesses.
Through a radio rigged with a microprocessor, a ground team will receive data from the spacecraft throughout its life cycle, expected to be about five years before it falls back to Earth.