A team led by 21-year-old Keshav Raghavan of Yale University has been chosen by NASA to have their CubeSat — a mini research satellite that detects cosmic rays — flown into space on future missions. The researchers from the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA), are only among the 16 teams across the country whose CubeSats will be flown into space on missions planned to launch in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Students designed the satellite over the course of four years and received the launch grant through NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative competition. According to NASA, BLAST is a scientific investigation mission to map the distribution of galactic cosmic radiation across the night sky. The satellite will identify and count alpha particles and beta particles in the rays, and measure the radiation energy around Earth.
BLAST will contribute to the ongoing search for the origins and nature of these rays, which will provide insight into the origins of the universe. Typical CubeSat projects cost about $30,000, while the one developed by the team will cost around $13,000 to $20,000, according to Andrew Krzywosz, co-president of YUAA.
Once BLAST, a cosmic ray detector, goes into orbit, it will collect data about particles traveling to earth from distant supernovae, Raghavan said. "Building a CubeSat and launching it into space is an ambition YUAA has had for quite a while. The founding members in 2011 had it as a goal in the back of their minds, but at that time, it was totally beyond our capabilities as a club," said Jonathan Li, co-president of YUAA. The team said that as the satellite is 'smaller than a loaf of bread,' it costs orders of magnitude less than large-scale satellites.