First-ever Mason satellite begins its mission


George Mason University’s first satellite "ASTERIA," part of Mason Engineering’s ThinSat program, successfully passed environmental testing at the Northrop Grumman facility on Wallops Island and was integrated into a deployer. ASTERIA is now ready for launch. 

The satellite will be launched on Saturday, February 20 at 12:36 p.m. from NASA’s facility on Wallops Island. Hitching a ride on the Northrop Grumman Antares rocket that is on its way to the International Space Station, the ThinSats will be released from the second stage at around 200 miles altitude. For approximately six days, the ThinSats will orbit Earth before they burn in the atmosphere.

“We have two experiments aboard a single ThinSat as part of mission NG-15,” says Piotr Pachowicz, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The first experiment will compare two methods for shielding batteries against freezing temperatures in space. The second experiment will compare the efficiency of two power architectures when influenced by satellite spin.”

ASTERIA was a senior design project involving 14 undergraduate students from the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Systems Engineering

Computer engineering student Jay Deorukhkar worked on several issues that had to be resolved or modified, as well as on system testing. “It was a challenge to ensure all experiments ran correctly and the data was accurate. However, the experience was rewarding,” says Deorukhkar.

Pachowicz has other aspirations for future engineering students. “The long-term goal is to engage senior design students in designing their own satellite and their own path to space,” he says.

Antares rocket
The ThinSats will travel aboard an Antares rocket like this when they lift-off on February 20.

The NG-15 ThinSat Virtual Launch Party, organized by Virginia Space, will be held on February 20 at 11 a.m. The virtual event will include presentations from program representatives, a live stream of the launch, and space data dashboard live data monitoring after deployment of ThinSats.