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Communications Education Space Science

UT Student-Built Spacecraft Separate and Communicate 102

Posted by timothy
from the hook-'em-and-unhook-'em-afterwards dept.
BJ_Covert_Action writes "Some students from the Cockrell School of Engineering in Austin, Texas have built, developed, launched, and operated two historic satellites. The FASTRAC satellites make up the first small-scale satellite system which is composed of two separate spacecraft that can communicate to each other. On March 22, the single FASTRAC satellite successfully separated into two smaller spacecraft that are currently operating and communicating with each other. While separation and communication has occurred between paired satellites before, this is the first time it has been done with such a small platform (the FASTRAC spacecraft weigh approximately 60 lbs.). Furthermore, this is the first time a student-designed and built space system has been composed of two separate spacecraft that can interact with each other. One of the most impressive things about this mission is that it was done incredibly cheap, at $250,000, which is far below the costs associated with traditional spacecraft."
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UT Student-Built Spacecraft Separate and Communicate

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  • Sure it's cheaper (Score:4, Insightful)

    by santax (1541065) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @08:26PM (#35606952)
    Now count the hours spend, add the costs of this being a project done by people are/have learned the ropes along the way of this project. Replace those factors with the hourly cost of a team of engineers and don't forget to call a insurance company for liability issues if your are offering this as a commercial service and all of a sudden we come to realize that education, labour and insurance cost more than the components your satellite + spaceship were made out of. This part wasn't exactly rocket science.
  • by prakslash (681585) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @09:15PM (#35607250)
    The satellites were launched by a Minotaur IV [utexas.edu] rocket from Alaska.
    These rockets are derived from converted [wikipedia.org] old Minuteman/Peacekeeper ICBMs.
    Despite that, the launch costs of such a rocket can still be $40-50 million [spaceflightnow.com]
    So, unless you can score a free ride for your doohickey, it ain't so cheap.
  • by Lazareth (1756336) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @09:35PM (#35607346)

    Exactly this. While I agree that what the students did was both an achievement and a valuable educational process, much of the cost of sending stuff into orbit is, not surprisingly, sending stuff into orbit. They got to do that for free*.

    *Hidden costs 101: get somebody else to pay for it and say you did everything amazingly cheap.

If money can't buy happiness, I guess you'll just have to rent it.

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