University of Alabama space team still out there during COVID-19 pandemic

University of Alabama space team still out there during COVID-19 pandemic
UASpace will launch its first CubeSat, BAMA-1, as part of a NASA project next year. (NASA)

Though faced with a global pandemic, University of Alabama students continue outreach efforts in conjunction with NASA to build and launch a satellite, while creating space-centered lessons for students.

The team, known as UASpace, began as a group interested in building a CubeSat, which is a small satellite that hitches a ride on a rocket as a secondary payload before launching into space.

What started as a dream in 2019 became a reality when the team’s satellite, BAMA-1, was selected by NASA to be one of 18 research satellites to launch aboard rockets in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The BAMA-1, which has no official launch date, will serve as a precursor to BAMA-2 and BAMA-3.

“The purpose of our mission is to help prevent CubeSats from remaining in low Earth orbit well past their mission lifetime and crowding it up,” said Ian Noonan, president of UASpace.

With the emergence of COVID-19, the team was forced to switch gears and take a step back from their hands-on approach. In-person builds became virtual communications regarding the design and testing methods of the BAMA-1 and in-classroom lessons were transitioned to virtual worksheets.

The team created space-centered lessons to share with students of all ages across Alabama. These lessons focus on math and science and relate directly to the CubeSat and UASpace’s overall mission. The team hopes to inspire students to pursue higher education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields through each of the lessons.

“It’s very important to our team that we help inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists and show them what they could be doing at the University of Alabama,” said Jack Muriano, project manager.

The team focuses on using the outreach portion of their satellite build to instill confidence in the future generation of system-focused engineers and better the lives of students and families, with a focus on the Black Belt region of the state. The team strives to foster a passion for space exploration among students in this under-served area of Alabama.

Students interested in utilizing the space-centered worksheets for learning can access them here.

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