UGA Small Satellite Research Laboratory – Help Us Go To Space!

By Dr. Deepak Mishra & Dr. David Cotton | Department of Geography

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    Funded. Goal: $25,000.00

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UGA Small Satellite Research Laboratory

Help Us Go To Space!

About The Project

For the first time in history, the University of Georgia is going to space – and it’s the students who are taking us there! These students will make history for the university by providing it with its first ever spacecraft, ground station and space systems research lab. Our goal is to place UGA among the top space faring Universities in the world and to give UGA a permanent presence in outer space. We want to teach students how to build satellites and space ready payloads.  UGA, and its students, are part of the modern space race that uses small satellites called CubeSats to perform ground breaking science and push the limits of our technological capabilities in outer space.

The project itself is student-built and student led. In conjunction with university professors and resources, students are building the first cube satellite to perform a moderate resolution multispectral analysis of various oceanic and coastal regions in low earth orbit. The satellite is named SPOC (SPectroscopic Observatory of Coastal regions), playfully known as the DAWG Sat. The spacecraft will map the production of shelf waters and salt marshes to help UGA’s professors better understand Georgia’s economically and environmentally vital coastal resources. The students will build a unique Georgia coastal imagery library that aggregates, classifies, and maps all gathered data. Researchers can use this data to make better predictions about vegetation patterns, environmental impacts, measure natural resources, and distinguish geographical changes over time. This space craft is scheduled to be launched to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative where it will be deployed into Low Earth Orbit.

Students are also working with faculty to design the first cube satellite to perform Structure for Motion in low earth orbit. The satellite is named MOCI (Mapping and Ocean Color Imager). The spacecraft will generate 3D point clouds of large scale structures on the Earth’s surface – in other words it will create a 3D model of Earth’s surface. This will be the first time a CubeSat has specialized in building 3D models using structure from motion. Researchers can use this data to measure natural resources and help gather data about natural disasters to better inform first responders.

 Why This Project Matters

The SPOC CubeSat mission was seleceted by NASA’s Undergraduate Student Instrument Project (USIP) for funding in the amount of $200,000.  The MOCI satellite’s design phase has been funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory University Nanosat Program (UNP). These funds, allow us to purchase the parts of the satellite but, since UGA is new to the space race, we are lacking the appropriate infrastructure.  Your donation, will give us the opportunity to build a sustainable undergraduate led research laboratory and purchase the appropriate components needed for testing our satellites.  Your gift will aid the students in the designing and building of these two CubeSat projects as well as making UGA a viable contender for future satellite missions.

The CubeSat will provide data to the university, its students, and researchers. The project aims to support the long-term benefits of the information the satellite will provide. The laboratory will allow students to peruse continued research and discovery with respects to geographic and meteorological applications, experimental propulsion techniques, and satellite cluster communication.

The University of Georgia does not yet have a space rated ground station or NASA rated testing equipment for small satellites. We are currently designing and building these capabilities here at UGA.  Soon, the Small Satellite Research Laboratory will make UGA one of the best space-capable universities in the world.

Where we are Now!

Just in the past year the lab has grown to 54 undergraduate students, SPOC has been selected for NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative which means it will be launched either 2018, 2019, or 2020, and the students had 4 successful reviews with the Air Force and 2 with NASA.

The lab is currently in the basement of the Physics building, equipped with a 140sq ft clean room rated ISO 7, a 200-liter vacuum chamber, and two Electrostatic Discharge workstations all of which are suitable for the integrations and testing of flight ready equipment thanks to previous donations. But the vacuum chamber does not have a pump yet, the lab still requires a Helmholtz cage for testing flight capabilities and a vibration table to simulate how the satellite will survive a rocket launch, and we are still lacking ground station capabilities that will allow us to communicate with our satellite. These are just a few of the items where donations will help our current missions succeed and allow for more students to participate in space based research for years to come.

The undergraduate students have also been very active in outreach and recruitment activities: giving a three day workshop in SSRL with NSF-funded LISEL-B teachers to help communicate science to middle and high school students, serving as guest lecturers at Cedar Shoals High School presenting on orbital mechanics, giving four guest lectures around campus, hosting prospective students from Morgan County schools, and will be giving a series of workshops related to empowering women in STEM.

These and future projects in the lab will provide a unique opportunity to enhance the growth of UGA educational programs by exposing undergraduates to the challenges of space exploration, communication with objects in orbit around the Earth, creating more experiential learning opportunities for classes, helping students transition into the STEM related workforce, and attracting new students to the University. More information about these projects can be found at

Overall the long-term goals of the Small Satellite Research Lab are similar to the University of Georgia’s motto. SSRL aims to teach, to develop, and to discover through undergraduate involvement. For years to come the lab hopes to continue: teaching students how to build and use space ready equipment, developing the local community by getting local K-12 students interested in both space exploration and the University, and discovering, by using space based equipment to observe phenomenon on Earth from an orbital perspective through national funding opportunities, creating new technologies that can be used on future missions, and demonstrating how small satellite systems can make large scientific discoveries.

For more information about this project, visit the website. Also be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr for live updates!


Wendy Aina | Franklin College of Arts and Sciences | | 404-376-3314

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