May 26, 2017

The Irvine CubeSat STEM Program has been selected as one of only 34 small satellites nationwide to participate in NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative and fly on an upcoming mission. Irvine CubeSat is one of two high schools chosen by NASA to participate in this prestigious program, alongside world class universities and research centers.

The selected spacecrafts are eligible for placement on a launch as auxiliary payloads on planned NASA or commercial space flight missions, or deployments from the International Space Station. After launch, the satellite will conduct technology demonstrations, scientific investigations, and provide educational benefits to students.

Fivepoint - Cubesat

Nearly a year after coming together, over 125 Irvine high school students are preparing to launch their current CubeSat, called IRVINE01, into low orbit in summer 2017 from a facility based in India. Boosted by $150,000 in seed funding from Irvine Public Schools Foundation (IPSF), this multiyear STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiative, called the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program, gained velocity thanks to corporate sponsors, including FivePoint, Ingersoll-Rand/Trane, Google, Cisco, Resilient and Microsemi.

Even before the official launch of IRVINE01, the Irvine CubeSat program has caught the attention of NASA. The agency selected the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program to be eligible for a NASA launch opportunity for IRVINE02, Irvine CubeSat’s second CubeSat mission, which will fly an electric propulsion system that will allow students to acquire technical skills in tracking and communicating with the satellite.

“It is a huge honor for Irvine CubeSat to be recognized and selected by NASA to participate in a future launch,” said Neda Eaton, president and CEO of IPSF. “This unbelievable opportunity validates the hard work and dedication of the students, teachers, and all of the partners involved. The Irvine CubeSat STEM Program is a true testament to what can be accomplished through the collaboration of industry experts, corporate partners, and public education. These students are setting an example for young people around the world that anything is possible, and we are excited to be part of making their dreams become a reality.”

By serving as the founding partner, IPSF helped to spur investment from other public and private organizations in Irvine CubeSat – which was designed to attract and retain students, teachers and faculty in STEM disciplines – as well as strengthen Orange County’s future workforce. In addition, the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program is uniting the City of Irvine public high schools in partnership with industry experts to assemble, test, and launch a CubeSat spacecraft, a type of miniaturized satellite for space research made from commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components for its electronics and structure.

Beckman High School, Irvine High School, Northwood High School, Portola High School, University High School, and Woodbridge High School each formed teams of up to 30 students responsible for assembling and testing one component of the nanosatellite. Typically, a program like Irvine CubeSat would be seen at NASA or a handful of elite colleges and universities.

The CubeSat initiative is helping to secure Irvine’s place as a hotbed of innovation. In addition to local companies sponsoring the project, Irvine-based Tyvak Nanosatellite Systems has stepped up as the integration partner. With professional guidance from Tyvak engineers, the six high school teams are assembling components at the company’s headquarters in March. This is the final step in preparation to launch the satellite.