After several years of hard work, a group of Puerto Rico students aim to see the launch of the first Puerto Rican-made satellite into space.
The group from the School of Engineering of the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Bayamón campus, have provided their CubeSat NanoRocks-2 project, known as PR-CuNaR2, to NASA to fly on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket when it looks to launch from Kennedy Space Center early Saturday morning.
The launch from KSC’s Launch Complex-39A is slated for 3:37 a.m. with a backup window of Sunday at 3:14 a.m.
This satellite is part of a scientific investigation by the university that began in 2013 with the design and construction prototype.
“There have been about 65 students and professors who have collaborated, along with other institutions such as the Florida Space Institute and the Physics Department of the University of Central Florida, until reaching the current student team, which is made up of Natalie Cruz, Jesús Marrero, Wilhem Sánchez, Xavier Álvarez, Edwardivan Labarca, Carlos Vergara, Héctor González, Ian Huertas, Carlos Figueroa and Lucas Soto“, according to the project website.
Once the satellite is launched, people interested in following its trajectory can do so by visiting prcunar2.org.ADVERTISING
The PR-CuNaR2, which will orbit at an altitude of about 400 km in a high-tilt orbit, is a 5.6-pound satellite built, among other materials, of photovoltaic cells, aluminum and batteries. It is four inches wide by four long and 12 inches high.
Amílcar Rincón Charris, professor in charge of the project, told El Sentinel Orlando this “is an experimental scientific satellite because as such we are used to seeing that most of the satellites, what they do is transmit communication information and those things. In our case it is an experiment.”
Rincón Charris, explained that “inside the satellite, we can say that it is as if it were a floating laboratory. Inside the satellite there are particles and there is a camera that is recording those particles moving inside the satellite. These particles are made of different materials and what we are more or less studying is how they behave when they are in microgravity, that is, when they are floating in space. We record them, we study their behavior and how they are formed, agglomerated and how they develop“.
Later, the team of students, alongside with their professor, will download the information from the satellite, process it, analyze it before publishing it. They will continue this effort together with NASA.https://www.youtube.com/embed/EivVGRH3uNQ?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https:%2F%2Fwww.orlandosentinel.com
Although the satellite is now considered a historic achievement as it is the first to be developed and completed in Puerto Rico, Rincón Charris confessed that at one point he doubted they could complete the project.
However, all doubts disappeared proving their hard work and both Rincón Charris and the students said they were very excited.
“The emotion that we have at this moment, I cannot describe it to you because really, it is the fruit of many years of work. There was a pandemic, earthquakes, [Hurricane] María and after all the efforts that we have made and the work, well to see it finished and that we take it to the final phase and put it in space that is wonderful and unique,” said Rincón Charris.
Héctor González Rivera, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student who worked with the PR-CuNaR2 since 2018, when the development of the project began, said that he never imagined the possibility “to work on a project like this.”
González Rivera heard about the opportunity and that the professor was looking for students and “I said yes quickly because I knew that this was going to be a very great opportunity for us since it will help us in the labor field as well.”
His experience with the satellite leads him to encourage other students to get involved in projects and not to give up.
Edwarivan Labarca, another of the students participating in the project, said he was very excited about the opportunity to put his knowledge into practice.
“I recently graduated and I am overjoyed to see this launch,” he said. “I have worked with Professor Amilcar on his aerospace projects since I started my mechanical engineering caree.
Noting the work has been overwhelming, he said, “it took a long time, but we are already at the final goal.”
For Labarca, being part of this team is “not only something historic, but an experience that one will never forget.”
“The entire team that we have at this moment, we began our careers at the Inter American University together. It is my pleasure to see my team grow because I remember my first day when we started classes, we talked about what projects we wanted to do and look, five years later we are here. It is an honor to see the completion of this project so significant for us,“ he said.
NASA published that the satellite made in Puerto Rico will travel with two others, one made by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the other by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. They are part of NASA’s 37th Educational Nanosatellite Launch mission.
Last month, when it was confirmed that the Puerto Rican satellite had passed the last round of tests, the president of Inter, Manuel J. Fernós, stated that “Puerto Rico is climbing a notch in its performance and academic contribution. This achievement is more significant when recognizing the persistence of the entire team, in continuing with the work facing moments of great difficulties and challenges such as those experienced during the pandemic. Its determination is today the rejoicing and celebration of an entire people.”
Rincón Charris is already working on his next assignment. He developed a new proposal “to continue making satellites like this, projects with NASA that are more or less similar to this one” to take advantage of the momentum they have at the moment.
“A common factor that large and small projects, all kinds of projects have, is patience. I always say that you should never lose your patience. The most challenging jobs are those that take a long time to solve. You have to do your job with passion, with an understanding and that is, in my opinion, the key to having the solution to complete the projects as such“ said Labarca.