It’s been six years in the making and now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's cube satellite is hitching a ride into space this month on a NASA rocket. Dozens of undergraduate students have had a hand in CAPE-2. It stands for Cajun Advanced Picosatellite Experiment. Assistant project manager Rizwan Merchant is a senior computer science major from Lafayette. He says his work on CAPE-2 will be his calling card for prospective employers.
“I’ve already seen the field I’m going to be getting into. I’ve already had something in orbit. So, when I go to that employer, I can tell them my fingerprints are already in space. I think I’m the best candidate for your job," Merchant said.
The CAPE -2 satellite is set to launch as part of a NASA payload on Nov. 19 from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. A group of ULL students will be there to see it launch. Once in orbit, this satellite will perform a number of tasks – like sending tweets. Merchant said the CAPE-2 team is now soliciting businesses that wish to have their message advertised in space.
“Forty-five minutes after we are out in orbit, our satellite will deploy its solar panels and begin normal operations," Merchant said. "Whenever the satellite passes over Lafayette, we’re able to perform a variety of tasks on it. Once of which is we can send a command to the satellite to tweet.”
ULL is the first university in Louisiana to launch a satellite. It’s ULL’s second one and a third is in the works. The program is funded entirely through student fundraising and corporate donations. The students hand-delivered CAPE-2 to a NASA facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last month. Researchers at Cal Poly lead the Cube Satellite program that allows many colleges around the world to do space research.