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WhitSat Program

The WhitSat Program is a student-led, faculty-advised project available to all Whitworth STEM students. The direction of this project is driven by students who want to contribute to a great endeavor that will last years after they graduate. This project is funded by crowdfunding from One Pine Day. Whether it is for students who want to leave an impact in the scientific world, or for someone who loves space, there is something for everyone!

NASA's CubeSat Launch initiative provides opportunities for small satellite payloads to fly on rockets planned for upcoming launches. CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. NASA is assisting the nation by attracting and retaining students in STEM disciplines, and by supporting universities in sending a research payload on one of their upcoming flights. Whitworth is taking advantage of this opportunity by creating a research project and designing a module that NASA could send to space.

The specific project is studying cosmic radiation and the effect it has on the microcontrollers that measure it. There are a variety of teams working on separate aspects of the satellite.

  • Power: This group oversees making sure the CubeSat has solar panels that power a battery with enough energy to power the satellite. They will be making printed circuit boards to get the power from the battery to all the other components of the satellite (microcontrollers, communications antenna, etc).
  • Microcontroller and Devices: This group programs the microcontrollers that run all the components of the CubeSat. They are designing and writing C++ code for a new kind of embedded microcontroller class. This group will also be involved in writing code for all other aspects of the project.
  • Ground Station: This group is developing a ground station for satellite communication. This includes working with radio systems and an antenna to track our satellite. Additionally, they will work on computer software to control the system, decode signals, log them to a database and share them to a website.
  • Radiation Detection: The goal of this group is to adapt and trim down the MIT desktop muon detector to fit into a much smaller space to measure the amount of cosmic radiation encountered by the CubeSat. This involves assembling and modifying circuits designed by the 2020 Whitworth Near Space group, as well as sourcing the necessary components. These include a plastic scinitillator (something that glows when hit by radiation) and a silicon photomultiplier. Some technical aspects of this project are printed circuit board (PCB) design and surface mount device (SMD) soldering.
  • Publicity: This group focuses on recruitment, publicity and outreach as the project starts to make good headway.

Select parts of the satellite will be outsourced, but the design, construction and testing of satellite will be done at Whitworth and surrounding areas for test flights.

The goal of WhitSat is raise awareness about the growing space industry while allowing students to collaborate and learn how to tackle tough problems. This project also aims to grow the engineering & physics department at Whitworth to allow more STEM students to contribute to the scientific community in an engaging and thrilling manner.