democratizing science

Climate CubeSat Co-Building

Beginning in Spring 2018, in an aim to fulfill NASA’s vision of 50 CubeSats from 50 States in 5 Years, the Space Exploration Initiative launched our Climate CubeSat Co-building Outreach Program (C3), in which we mentor high school students through designing, building, testing, and launching a cubesat that makes climate science and earth-observation measurements.

A CubeSat being launched in space from a much larger satellite.

C3 lecture series session with high school students and guest lecturer, Danielle Wood. Avery Normandin & Devora Najjar (C3 Program leads), 1st row.

The program is themed around Climate Science and Remote Sensing; the payloads are designed and developed as part of a communal, participatory satellite constellation that takes numerous atmospheric (greenhouse gas) measurements. Student groups can either build CubeSats to support the citizen-science constellation or low-cost ground stations to support the active measurements as CubeSats fly over.

AeroAstro STAR Lab guest lecture with CubeSat models.

A third means of involvement centers on the open data set to be released as measurements are taken, offering an inclusive and easily scalable means of participating in the program: become part of the data analysis community effort as this global data set is gathered and reviewed. We view this three-part citizen science program (build a CubeSat; build a ground station; analyze the open data) as a critical opportunity to engage a broader and younger population in climate science discussions and awareness of climate change.

Students working through design questions and systems engineering for their CubeSat subsystems.

Our local program (the beta test for expanding nationally and globally) currently supports 20 high school students. We are also working in collaboration with the Media Lab Learning initiative to bring this program to public libraries across the U.S. as part of their Public Library Innovation Exchange (PLIX) program. Our library collaborators include amazing librarians from Cambridge Public Library, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, and the Wolbach Library at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The kick-off session for our Space Explorations in Libraries program at Cambridge Public Library in March 2019. Participants are making model CubeSats out of craft materials.

Students at Cambridge Public Library tinker with Micro:bits for data collection as part of a high altitude balloon launch.

One participant doing a VR spacewalk!