IRVINE CUBESAT GETS AN A!

IRVINE CUBESAT GETS AN A!

October 29, 2019

Irvine CubeSat STEM Program is getting an “A” for Art! With the goal of bringing a unique element to each CubeSat mission, the IRVINE03 team is working with Kim Garrison and Steve Radosevich, OCC professors and local artists from United Catalysts, to take on the challenge of sending art into space.

The duo met with the CubeSat team to discuss the artwork designed for the top panel of the IRVINE03 satellite, and collaborate with the students on how they will work together to obtain the space grade materials and print the art on the CubeSat.

“Our CubeSat students have many interests, and we are excited to have the opportunity to bring this artistic element to the mission,” explains Cheryl Braun, Chief Program Officer for Irvine Public Schools Foundation. “We are always looking for new ways to enhance the student experience and provide them with unique career and technical skills.”

Just as IRVINE03’s main mission utilizes forward-thinking scientific advances, United Catalysts’ art pushes the boundaries of materials and the context in which art is seen. Working in collaboration with Irvine CubeSat’s director Dr. Brent Freeze and Commander Ronnie Nader of the Ecuadorean Space Agency (EXA), artists Kim Garrison and Steve Radosevich are utilizing the latest in temperature and UV radiation resistant materials, such as Kapton, and aluminized mylar, and working with Dupont to print designs for the satellite’s exterior on transparent Tedlar film, with UV resistant inks that will withstand the harsh conditions of space.

Creating conceptual art as part of a satellite’s mission is highly unique; only a handful of art has been created that interacts with outer space. Not only will United Catalysts’ artwork result in the development of new techniques and materials for satellite surface design and more pleasing aesthetics for the IRVINE 03, but this work will help students think more profoundly about the history, science, and impact of their mission, and will help create a dialogue about what else is possible in the future of space flight.

The art’s design is a tribute to the discovery of pulsars in 1967 by Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, then a graduate student at Cambridge University. Dr. Bell Burnell was a guest speaker at the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program in Spring 2019, when she spoke to students about her discovery, and about women in STEM and astrophysics.

The focal point is a diagram of the radio waves released by a neutron star, creating its rhythmic pulsar song. The graphic recording of this song, which Dr. Burnell used to make her discovery, is shown on the left side of the panel, radiating out across the cosmos like a beacon. In the bottom left corner is a radio telescope used to catalog radio transmissions across the universe. Along the right side is a profile of the Interplanetary Scintillation Array, the telescope array that recorded the very first pulsar radio signal.

In the background is Wandlebury Hill, part of the Gogmagog Downs near Cambridge, England. These ancient chalk hills have been inhabited since 3,000 B.C., and have been the site of ancient astronomical ceremonies, earth markings and burials. This sacred site represents our earliest observations of the heavens, and the continuum of humanity’s quest for knowledge about our place on earth and our place in the universe.

The piece features a quote by Dr. Bell Burnell, “Science is a quest for understanding”, which stresses the importance of seeking, not only facts about the world around us, but connections that guide our way forward. This quote is especially relevant to the mission of IRVINE03, as students will be using this satellite as a trainer for X-ray navigation (XNAV). The technique of using pulsars as navigational beacons will help enable the next generation of long-term space missions, and further students’ understanding of the cosmos.