FAU Engineering among 8 universities nationwide selected by NASA for nanosatellite program

A team from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science is among just eight university teams in the United States selected to work with NASA and the U.S. military to develop small satellites, ultimately increasing the possibility of flying their technology in space, and potentially launching their own careers in the space industry.

NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) is partnering with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force for the 2024 Mission Concept Program. A CubeSat is a class of small satellite that are typically the size of a 4-inch cube and weigh less than five pounds. The three-month program FAU is participating in will provide students with systems engineering training for spacecraft development. The partnership aims to prepare students to work in the space industry while simultaneously enhancing small satellite expertise among faculty at U.S. universities.

The three FAU students selected to participate are Vitas Diktanas, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student, Sky Rueff, a mechanical engineering undergraduate, and Jonathan Mazurkiewicz, an undergraduate in computer engineering. Oscar M. Curet, associate professor in FAU’s department of ocean and mechanical engineering, and George Sklivanitis, a fellow at FAU’s Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering, are leading the team.

“Importantly, this initiative will offer participating students invaluable systems engineering training specific to spacecraft development and is part of NASA’s broader strategy to engage and retain students in STEM fields to build a robust pipeline of talent in the aerospace sector,” said Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean, FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science.

The other selected universities are: University of Central Florida, Orlando; University of Mississippi, Oxford; University of North Dakota, Grand Forks; Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana; Northeastern University, Boston; West Virginia University, Morgantown; and Tarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas.

The teams will meet at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for a four-day kickoff meeting in May, followed by seven weeks at the Air Force’s University Nanosatellite Program facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where three students from each university will serve as interns with the Space Dynamics Laboratory.

During the program, the students will work with small satellite experts for feedback and guidance to help improve university proposals and increase those teams’ potential of being selected to fly to space as part of NASA’s CSLI or the Air Force’s nanosatellite opportunities. Final presentations will take place in Albuquerque and participants are encouraged to attend the Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah, in August. Both programs will make final selections for future flights in 2025.

NASA uses CSLI as one if its ways to attract retain students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.

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Nancy Dahlberg