West Virginia Wesleyan College

Department of Physics and Engineering

New Picosatellite Course


Many students dream of exploring near-Earth space, and our special Space Systems Engineering course is designed to help students do exactly that.  Technical support and supplies are provided NASA WV Space Grant Consortium and the NASA Independent Verification and Validation facility in Fairmont, WV. 


Text Box:  Dr. Stevens and student Russell Gillespie at the first meeting in Morgantown.Students are building a picosatellite to be launched into orbit to measure Earth’s magnetic field under the guidance of Dr. DeLaney and Dr. Stevens.  Technical guidance is provided by D. Vassiliadis at WVU and Steven Hard at IV&V.


Physics/Engineering students Andrew Knotts of Martinsburg, WV, and Josh Hiett of Bloomery, WV, have funding to continue working on the project this summer. They will build miniaturized electronic circuits and write computer programs to map Earth’s magnetic field while the satellite orbits. They also will develop circuitry to detect and control the satellite’s orientation in space.


“We plan to replace an existing magnetometer with a more advanced design that includes a tri-axial accelerometer and a gyroscope,” said Hiett. “We plan to use the accelerometer to map out the satellite’s exact orbital path. We want to have our project ready for launch next October.”


NASA’s goals are to enhance critical systems education, to enhance the related tools and methods, and to enhance space systems and software engineering.  Students will build, test, and launch operating flight systems in near-Earth orbit through amateur radio operations.



In the photo below, Dr. DeLaney is holding a mock-up of the satellite and some of the electronic circuitry that will be installed in the actual satellite. Once all of the circuitry is functional, a printed circuit board will be constructed and the components soldered on.