Oak Ridge students designing satellite to send on NASA mission

The students worked with scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to design and develop their nanosatellite.

A satellite designed by students at Robertsville Middle School will soon be launched into space.

The students submitted their proposal to NASA last November, and were selected to take part in NASA's Cube Satellite Launch Initiative. The program provides opportunities for small satellites built by schools or nonprofits to fly on upcoming NASA missions.

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The students worked with scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to design and develop their nanosatellite.

According to a news release from the city of Oak Ridge, they will send their "RamSat" along with 20 other satellites from other groups into orbit during launch opportunities in 2019, 2020 or 2021. The exact date the students' satellite will be launch has not been determined yet.

“This is such an exciting opportunity for the students," Peter Thornton, one of the RamSat team leaders from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said in a statement. "They will now have the chance to design, build, carry out and own a satellite mission. They will be the mission scientists, the communication specialists, and the logistics experts."

According to the news release, the students plan to send a small camera and radio on their satellite that will relay data and images from space back to earth so they can study reforestation patterns of vegetation lost in forest fires.

"They will calculate orbits, learn to aim their satellite camera at selected targets on the ground, radio their commands to RamSat, and receive and interpret the digital data streams broadcast by RamSat, containing imagery and all the other important data gathered on-board," Thornton said. "I can’t think of a more exciting project to ignite the students’ curiosity and passion for science and engineering.”

The students' project was inspired by the wildfires that swept through parts of Sevier County and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in November 2016.