USU satellite to dock with International Space Station

A composite illustration of the HyperAngular Rainbow Polarimeter satellite. Photo: NASA and SDL

Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Lab has delivered a small satellite, known as HARP, to NASA and in October it is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station aboard Northrop Grumman’s robotic resupply space freighter Cygnus.

Tim Neilsen, SDL program manager for HARP, said the satellite will then be ejected from the space station to measure specific atmospheric conditions. He said it is small.

”The spacecraft bus that actually carries the payload is very small, it’s about the size of a loaf of bread,” Neilsen explained. “And that’s something we’ve been able to accomplish with the miniaturization of recent technologies.”

HARP is an acronym for HyperAngular Rainbow Polarimeter satellite. Neilsen said during the satellite’s year in space, orbiting at about 200 miles above the earth, it will measure the microphysical properties of cloud water and ice particles.

”We’re going to learn about the science of how clouds are formed, what sort of particulates are in the air, including aerosols, whether they’re naturally generated or generated by man.”

HARP is currently being prepared for launch by International Space Station small satellite launch service provider NanoRacks.

“It’s launching out of the Wallops Flight facility, which is managed by NASA. It’s out on the outer coast of Virginia. It will launch from there on the 21st of October.”

Neilsen said the delivery of HARP continues SDL’s decades-long relationship with NASA.

“SDL is a government partner that has been designated as a core institution for the government for the development of small satellites and we really feel SDL has become a premier leader in the nation for small satellites. We’re very excited about several missions, including HARP, that the government has entrusted us with.”

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