Backscratchers, automobile parts, running shoes, and prosthetics. Since their introduction in the 1980's, 3 dimensional printers and printing have come a long way with miles to go in the future. For the next two years, a group of electrical engineering technology (EET) students at Penn State Wilkes-Barre will be testing a new 3D printer boundary when they print and launch a satellite into space.
Through the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium, engineering faculty applied for and received a seed grant to design, develop, and implement a low earth orbit satellite. The primary goal of the PA Space Grant Consortium is to expand opportunities for Pennsylvanians to learn about and participate in NASA's aeronautics and space programs by supporting and enhancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, research, and outreach programs.
"Our plan is to design everything on the satellite from the housing to the systems on board," explains Instructor of Engineering, Tim Sichler. "The satellite will be in space at a minimum of 4 weeks but our hope obviously is that it stays longer - we think it has the possibility of 3 months. We've tied this into the EET senior projects - our students have been beginning some preliminary work over the summer but we're still working on our ultimate goals for the satellite. Students will be formulating questions they want answered from this experiment and build the appropriate systems to gain their answers. We will be experimenting with different types of propulsion systems, novel guidance models and a high speed communications link. Our hope is that students from all academic areas on campus will consider participating in the diverse aspects of this project."
Unfortunately there is one aspect of the satellite that Penn State Wilkes-Barre students will not be able to participate in - the actual launch. The satellite launch will be conducted by a commercial launch provider located in California.
Penn State Wilkes-Barre previously received PA Space Grant Consortium funding in 2010 for a high altitude balloon series of experiments.