SKC students develop pico-satellite

Feb 8th, 2012 | By | Category: 23-3: Technology and Culture, Tribal College News

Since the beginning of 2011, a team of students and faculty at Salish Kootenai College (SKC, Pablo, MT) have been developing a pico-satellite, also called a “Cubesat.”

SKC’s satellite will be a 10 cm cube and weigh about one kilogram. This is the standard for satellites of this class. This small size limits the amount of scientific equipment that these satellites can carry. These miniaturized satellites are relatively inexpensive and have huge research potential for aerospace and planetary science.

SKC’s Cubesat team consists of a diverse group of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students and faculty members with different tribal affiliations. The project is funded by the NASA Tribal Colleges and Universities Program. Team members are introduced to NASA systems engineering and the development process of a spacecraft. The experience is helping to prepare SKC STEM students for careers with NASA.

We began this year by constructing a ground station. Two faculty members and two students, including myself, have acquired the required amateur radio licenses from the Federal Communications Commission. With the ground station, students are able to track and listen to satellites as they pass over SKC. SKC typically listens to Cubesats in orbit to practice for our future mission.

In November, SKC applied for the NASA Cubesat launch initiative. The main mission objective is education and community outreach. The payload for our Cubesat is a camera system that will photograph the reservation from space. SKC plans to involve local middle and high school students to learn from this technology. It makes me feel proud that I am attending the right institution to prepare me for a career with NASA or a similar organization. As SKC gains experience in aerospace technologies, future missions may include more science research by students.

Ryan Young is a computer engineering student at SKC. For more information about SKC Cubesat, see

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2 Comments to “SKC students develop pico-satellite”

  1. skcalanderson says:

    Just a note that Ryan Young is a Computer Engineering student at SKC, not SIPI. Also our new website is Finally, last week announced the cubesat projects for the next launch initiative and SKC’s proposal was number 3 on the list!

  2. Laura Paskus says:

    Thanks for the correction and the update. And congrats!

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