CAT Kickstarter Project is Live!

The CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT) began its Kickstarter campaign this week! MXL is working in collaboration with Prof. Benjamin Longmier and PEPL to demonstrate a new propulsion system powered by the Sun and propelled by water, which will push small satellites like CubeSats around and far beyond the Earth. Check out details of the project and the awards available to backers on its Kickstarter page.

Simplified CAD model of the CAT CubeSat. The thruster and bus will take approximately 2/3 of the 3U CubeSat, leaving 1U for a scientific or commercial payload.

Simplified CAD model of the CAT CubeSat. The thruster and bus will take approximately 2/3 of the 3U CubeSat, leaving 1U for a scientific or commercial payload.

ORS-3 CubeSat tracking updates

We’ve continued our effort to help identify the CubeSats from the recent ORS-3 launch. The plot below is spectrum recorded yesterday (Monday 11/25). KySat-2 and Vermont Lunar CubeSat were heard during the pass, and there is potentially a third CubeSat identified, which appears to be 300 seconds ahead of KySat-2 and Vermont Lunar CubeSat and with a center frequency near 437.345 MHz. Could this be Black Knight-1? A full list of the ORS-3 CubeSats can be found on Spaceflight Now.


This “waterfall plot” is spectrum recorded when tracking KySat-2 and Vermont Lunar CubeSat on Monday 11/25. Signals from a potential third CubeSat may have been Black Knight 1?

Tracking the new CubeSats

MXL’s ground station operators have been hard at work this week tracking the sixty-one satellites that were recently lofted to orbit. Many of the CubeSats were designed and built by university labs like MXL and we’ve been eager to assist with tracking as much as we can. The tracking has also been helpful practice and testing as we prepare for the upcoming MCubed-2 launch. We’ve been tracking the recently-launched satellites as they pass overhead and attempting to uniquely distinguish the signals emitted by each satellite. By isolating the received signals, we can determine which satellite they belong to and approximate the relative position of the satellite. We are confident that we have heard beacons from KySat-2 and the Vermont Lunar CubeSat, and other possible contacts may soon be confirmed. During the next few days, we plan to gather more data and analyze it so we can differentiate the CubeSats and associate them with the appropriate TLE using Doppler shift characteristics, which will facilitate consistent tracking as the satellites continue to separate from each other on orbit. We will keep you updated with any new findings!

MXL students Logan Sisca and Srinagesh Sharma track CubeSats during a recent satellite pass.

Michigan students and alumni in Aerospace Summer Games

The Aerospace Summer Games are an annual tradition where the aerospace companies in the LA-area compete in some friendly competition. This years games were held in July, and many MXL, S3FL, and other Michigan engineering students and alumni participated. Included in the picture below are students and alumni that were either summer interns or are working full time at Boeing, JPL, Northrop Grumman, and SpaceX.


Michigan students and alumni at the Aerospace Summer Games 2013.