Virginia grade school's CubeSat will launch from ISS soon

A grade school in Virginia will be the first of its kind to send a CubeSat satellite into orbit. The satellite, which was created by students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, was sent to the International Space Station in December 2015, and it is scheduled to be released from it later this month on February 15. Once in orbit, the satellite will send pictures from space back to the school.

The CubeSat is about the size of a shoebox, shown in the picture below, and it will send pictures about 200 miles back down to Earth to the school library's radio antenna. The photos will then be shared with the public. This all assumes, of course, that the satellite goes into orbit and functions as intended.

Gabriel MacPhail, an 11-year-old student dreaming of one day working for NASA, said: "There's a lot that could go wrong. The antenna might not work. The camera might be pointed in the wrong direction." MacPhail also gave a nod to more creative thinking, telling WaPo, "If something does go wrong and the satellite drifts out of low Earth orbit, maybe alien life will pick it up. I'm just saying, anything is possible in space exploration."

The CubeSat has a small religious payload nestled inside, a golden cross medallion screwed into place; it was blessed by Pope Francis. There's also a small plaque that has been engraved with all of the school's students' names (400 of them) and the teachers' names.

SOURCE: The Washington Post