Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cal Poly students and scientists are a big part of Friday's Delta II launch at Vandenberg

Jay Thompson, Cal Poly

The launch of a soil moisture monitoring satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base was in a 24-hour delay cycle on Thursday afternoon because of a problem with upper level winds Thursday morning.

The SMAP satellite (Soil Moisture Active Passive) is now scheduled to launch Friday morning at 6:20.

Three other nano-satellites—or CubeSats—are also onboard the Delta II rocket sitting on the Vandenberg launchpad, and they're what scientists and students from Cal Poly will be watching.

"The father of CubeSats is actually is a professor at Cal Poly, Dr. JordiPuig-Suari, is one of two men who came up with the original concept of the CubeSat," said NASA's Scott Higginbotham. "That then proceeded on to the development of the first CubeSat dispenser, which is actually what we're flying on this mission now, the PPOD. We also have a satellite flying with us that was built and tested at Cal Poly as well, so Cal Poly is all over this flight."

Credit Cal Poly
From left: Justin Foley, CubeSat systems engineer at Cal Poly, Alicia Johnstone, an aerospace engineer for the university’s CubeSat program, and and John Michael Bellardo, an associated professor of computer science at Cal Poly.

Ryan Nugent is with the program and will be closely watching the ExoCube III, which is being sent into space to measure various gasses in the upper atmosphere.

"This is a huge milestone for Cal Poly," said Nugent."It's the tenth satellite that we've worked on, the tenth CubeSat specifically, that we've worked on at Cal Poly, so we're really excited for this launch and more excited that it's launching right out of our backyard at Vandenberg."

Once the satellites are in orbit, Cal Poly tracks them from the school's ground station, known as the Earth Station.

The satellite will orbit the Earth about eight times a day, according to Cal Poly's Jay Thompson. Its orbit means it will fly above Cal Poly two times daily.