The Viterbi School of Engineering’s satellite program received permission last week to launch the Aeneas satellite into space. The launch will take place within the next two months.
The USC Information Sciences Institute and the USC Space Engineering Research Center worked together on the satellite mission. The Aeneas spacecraft, a nanosatellite, has been completed and has passed all integration tests.
Researchers are hoping to prove that low-power communication is possible from a satellite in space.
Dan Erwin, professor and chair of the Department of Astronautical Engineering, said the research has a practical, commercial application.
“The idea is that you can do real surveillance and communication with very small, cheap satellites,” Erwin said. “We’re trying to make space more accessible for many applications.”
Researchers plan to use their findings to track cargo containers traveling on ships through a Department of Homeland Security program.
The program is launching the satellite from the Falcon vehicle by SpaceX. Erwin said that companies, such as SpaceX, donate the excess space on their spacecraft to projects like Aeneas.
Many research universities already have established programs that launch spacecraft, but Erwin said USC’s program, which works with smaller spacecraft, is unique because it provides students with hands-on experience and the ability to see a project from start to finish.
“The main engineers on the program are students,” Erwin said. “It’s very exciting to be able to go from the very beginning to seeing a spacecraft launched and in orbit while still a student.”