By Emely Bonilla January 31, 2023
On January 3, Bronco Space launched its second CubeSat, a miniature satellite used in low orbit, as part of its current project, Pleiades Rapid Orbital Verification Experimental System.
As technology advances, more and more companies are investing money in expanding space exploration and creating new achievements in the field. Without major funding, it’s rare for undergraduates to create a full-fledged space mission.
“Nobody at Cal Poly Pomona had ever tried to do what we’re trying to do – put things in space, work on these really cool projects for NASA, and really be a peer for the new space industry,” said said Michael, an aerospace engineering student. Pham. “We now have two things Cal Poly Pomona students have built while zooming around the planet, that’s something the whole community can be proud of.”
Pham is the Bronco Space student lab director and witnessed the start of this club and all of its progress. In the spring of 2019, Pham and a few other engineers decided to fund and start the club in hopes of creating a community of passionate students interested in aerospace.
Bronco Space is a student organization that strives to inspire both Broncos and other college students through accessible technology in space exploration. The group welcomes undergraduate and graduate students to provide them with research experience and prove that the field of aerospace is for everyone.
Pham and aerospace student Megan Beck would agree that Bronco Space’s accomplishments were no easy task. Space missions require academic knowledge, emotional intelligence and commitment. As project manager for PROVES, Beck revealed how meticulous planning a mission like this can be.
“In a space program, it’s very difficult to get all the licenses and all the documents in time, especially with such a short deadline,” says Beck. “You have to contact many government agencies and volunteer groups to get the approval you need to send a satellite into space.”
Logistics such as paperwork, testing, and costs can cause other undergraduates to delay their own passion for space exploration. A key factor in the PROVES CubeSat was its thousand dollar price tag. Kits similar to those created by the PROVES project team can range from $10,000 to $40,000.
“Thanks to the innovation of our engineers, we were able to reduce our costs of manufacturing a spacecraft while making sure it was a contraption that could be built quickly. Compared to other universities and companies, our kit is considered one of the least expensive programs,” says Beck.
Since BroncoSat-1, the first bronco space mission, the club has steadily gained support from the university, but with such an expensive field, creativity is needed to succeed. The second CubeSat was a project many would consider ambitious and was designed with the ultimate goal of inspiring the space community.
“Space doesn’t have to be so difficult and so expensive that only the best universities and the best-funded research groups can participate in space exploration,” Pham said. “We want anyone with the drive to find a why to get something in space.”
With the success of PROVES, the team hopes it can serve as a benchmark to motivate and help universities across the country with their own space programs. Helping other aerospace students gain essential learning by experimenting with a more accessible kit is what Bronco Space hopes to achieve.
Donald Edberg, professor of aerospace, revealed how organizations such as Bronco Space can not only help the space industry, but can help students involved in these projects get jobs or other opportunities.
“The work these students did to design, prepare and launch their small spacecraft, which is only the size of a loaf of bread, is the same work that must be done in a very large spacecraft in orbit” , Edberg said. “What they learn at Cal Poly applies directly to getting a job at a place that builds satellites and launches.”
To learn more about current and upcoming projects, visit the Bronco space website.
Image courtesy of Michael Pham