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Three…two…one… liftoff planned for “Bama-1”

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The University of Alabama is soaring to new heights this weekend. A rocket is scheduled to take a small satellite named BAMA-1 into orbit on Saturday from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. BAMA-1 is the university’s first-ever satellite and is about the size of a bread box. It’s taken a team of fifty undergrads three years to build the orbiting experiment package. Abby Feeder is the program manager for BAMA-1. She explains what the mission entails.

“We are doing a technology demonstration mission with a piece of technology called a drag sail designed to do research on orbital removal and rapid de-orbiting of satellites. So it acts like a parachute in orbit,” said Feeder. “This is kinda first-generation technology.”

UA’s BAMA-1 satellite will be one of five small satellites aboard a rocket from the company Astra. The UA project is one of 18 small research satellites selected by NASA to fly in the coming years. Ian Noonan is the chief technical officer for BAMA-1. He says it was challenging working in a virtual environment because of COIVD. But things worked out.

       “Fortunately for us, when COVID closed everything down, we didn’t have parts in the lab yet,” Noonan recalled. “We were working on placing our order for parts. And so, there was a lot of collaborative work that could be done in a virtual environment that didn’t necessarily require hands-on access.”

University of Alabama engineering students have also won honors from NASA for its robotic mining equipment. The idea is to use robot miners to dig up soil on the Moon or Mars and to use that material in 3-D printers to create materials for outposts away from Earth. Supporters say doing so would be less costly to sending those parts up on rockets.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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