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UMass Lowell students to build mini satellite for NASA

As part of their proposal sent to NASA, students created an image of what the satellite will look like. University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

A team of students from the University of Massachusetts Lowell has been awarded $200,000 to design and build a satellite that NASA will launch into orbit in 2018.

The satellite, called Space Hawk, will be sent on a year-long mission around Earth, the university said in a statement.

Space Hawk will be a miniature, low-cost model, about a foot long and 4 inches tall and wide, officials said. It will be powered by four solar panels.

Its size will make construction challenging, said assistant professor Timothy Cook, an adviser to the team.

“The satellite will be about a third of the size of a desktop computer,” Cook said. “We need to have similar capabilities to other satellites, but in a smaller size.”


The mission will test the satellite’s ability to collect and send data at up to 50 to 100 megabits per second, officials said.

“What we’re really doing is taking images of the sun and sending them through high-speed communication systems,” Cook said. “We want to do it with a satellite of this size so that small satellites can send information very quickly in the future.”

Space Hawk, which will move at about 17,000 miles per hour, is expected to take these images as high as 1,200 miles above the Earth, officials said.

The funding is part of NASA’s Undergraduate Student Institute Project, which provides funding for students so they can participate in projects related to NASA missions, officials said. UMass Lowell students received the maximum amount of funding.

Cook said any UMass Lowell faculty members involved in the student-run project are serving purely as advisers.

“This is not one of those programs where professors and faculty end up doing the work behind closed doors,” Cook said. “The students are doing it, turning the bulbs, writing the code, building the satellite themselves.”


Cook said the program lets students get hands-on experience with NASA projects.

“They will be able to say, ‘Something I built is in space,’” Cook said. “Not many people can say that, and even fewer people can say they did it in undergrad.”

Olivia Quintana can be reached at olivia.quintana@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @oliviasquintana.