Colorado students named finalists in NASA competition

New safety standards bring in new challenges for the CU Boulder team.

KUSA - A team of students from the University of Colorado Boulder landed a spot for their small satellite on NASA's new heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System.

CU Boulder's Earth Escape Explorer (CU-E3) design was one of the three winners of NASA's national Cube Quest Challenge small satellite competition.

The contest was focused on finding innovative solutions to deep space communications.

It had several stages. CU's team submitted design plans, simulations and a budget at each level.

Team members will now get $20,000 to build their satellite.

The team's project manager, aerospace master's student Ben Fried, says this satellite could be one of the most challenging satellites CU students have had to build because it will be traveling on a rocket that can also carry humans.

"Because NASA's vehicle will be qualified to carry humans, we are subject to hefty safety requirements and the lengthy safety qualification process," Fried said. "We have meticulously considered all of our components and the potential hazards that could arise from all of them.

"Even if they seem crazy and impossible, all risks must be considered and mitigated properly through testing or analysis, which has kept us extremely busy," Fried added. "We have a dedicated engineer who is in charge of managing our safety process, and we are in phase 2 of the NASA review process."

This satellite is also set for a unique mission once it is in space.

It will travel more than 2.5 million miles, into an eventual orbit more than 10 times the distance from the Earth to the moon.

The team has to complete construction of their satellite by spring 2018.

They are competing for awards worth up to $1.5 million, based on how well their satellites perform.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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