Hometown Heroes: Students Create Satellite Inspired by Gatlinburg Wildfires

Robertsville Middle School students and mentor working on the ELaNa 36 CubeSat, RamSat
Robertsville Middle School students and their mentor work on the ELaNa 36 CubeSat, RamSat. Photo credit: Robertsville Middle School

RamSat, a small research satellite, or CubeSat, developed by Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, will launch aboard SpaceX’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-22) mission. Lifting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 3 at 1:29 p.m. EDT, CRS-22 will carry 7,300 pounds of cargo, science, and research to the International Space Station. The RamSat CubeSat onboard is on a mission to study forest regrowth in the Gatlinburg area following the 2016 wildfires.

This satellite will use small cameras to capture pictures of growing forests and radio communication to send those images to ground control in Robertsville Middle School’s STEM Classroom. Students will operate the mission using amateur radio frequencies to listen for RamSat flying overhead, send commands to control the spacecraft, and gather image data and information about the spacecraft’s health. RamSat’s mission, which could last up to 18 months, will begin when it deploys from the space station into its own orbit 250 miles above Earth.

The concept for RamSat was created by students, Tyler Dunham and Aidan Hilliard. During its approximately five-year development, over 150 students have had the opportunity to work on the CubeSat. Robertsville Middle School was selected by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) in 2018. CSLI enables the launch of CubeSats designed, built, and operated by students, teachers and faculty, as well as NASA centers and nonprofit organizations. Managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) missions provide a deployment opportunity or ride-share launch to space for CubeSats selected by CSLI. RamSat will launch as the sole CubeSat of the agency’s 36th ELaNa mission (ELaNa 36).

Stay connected with the mission on social media by following NASA’s Launch Services Program at @NASA_LSP on Twitter and NASA LSP on Facebook.