February 20, 2018 | by Erica Landreneau
CAPE-3 Satellite Almost Ready to Launch

Not too long ago, in a galaxy not so far away, a team of students and alumni from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are in their final testing stages in preparation for the launch of their third satellite.

The first satellite, was launched in 2007 in Kazakhstan by Russia. According to Rizwan Merchant, CAPE ESG-Grid project manager.

According to Merchant at that time, the Republic of Kazakhstan had many converted ICBMs rockets, like nuclear missiles. The nuclear element was taken out and replaced with CubeSats and then sent into orbit.

“Now, we had a 50 percent guaranteed success rate with these,” said Merchant. “The original rocket that CAPE-1 was on actually blew up. It was a fluke on our part that we moved our launch to the second rocket, and we survived.”

The satellite is still in orbit and can be tracked on this website. The second satellite was launched in Virginia, in 2013, and it has fallen out of orbit after 11 months.

There are three new features on the Cajun Advanced Picosatellite Experiment-3, which include a camera, an ARMOR program and an Attitude program.

The camera for CAPE-3 is now functioning and on the satellite. According to Rizwan Merchant, one problem with the camera was finding a way to make it fit next to the ARMOR program. The camera also takes phones on-command by phone.

The ARMOR program is next to the camera and is designed to detect radiation. The team is still working on the enclosure for the ARMOR program.

The Attitude program board continues to be worked on in the CAPE lab, however, a dummy board is currently sitting in its place on the satellite for the moment. Josh LeBlanc, a junior electrical engineer major, is one of the team members working on the Attitude program. Edwards said the team is currently working on formulas and algorithms for the program.

Nick Pugh started the CAPE program at UL Lafayette in 2004. According to Merchant, the original CAPE team consisted of five or six people.The team actively working on CAPE-3 has 12 members, and Pugh is still involved. According to Merchant, Jacob Deshotels, project manager for CAPE-3, spent most of the winter break working on CAPE-3. Deshotels is a senior mechanical engineering major.

“Those students with CAPE-1 were kind of like the pioneers,” said Paul Darby, Ph.D. “They had to prove it was possible. Back then we didn’t even know we could pull that off, and there were a number of problems and hurdles they had to work through.

“There’s been so many students because of that initial effort and because of the ongoing work of people like Mr. Pugh that oversees them. There’s been so many students to take this and use it for a vehicle, no pun intended, to really launch their careers.”

As Darby said this, you can look around the room at the members of the CAPE team and see the look of accomplishment and gratification on their faces.

The CAPE-3 satellite will be part of the ELaNa 20 mission. The date of the launch has not yet been announced.

“When I go to a job employer obviously I can’t take a satellite and put it on your desk and say, ‘Hey, I put a satellite in orbit,’” said Merchant. “But what I can tell them is ‘My fingerprints are in space. How many of your people who applied for this job can say the same thing?’”

Oh, and that list of people whose fingerprints are in space, you can add me to the list.

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Hey, everyone! I'm Erica Landreneau, and I am a journalism major. I'm 20 years old and originally from Evangeline Parish. I currently write for the monthly paper in Evangeline Parish called Bonnes Nouvelles. This semester I am the Campus Life reporter for Ragin' Wire, and I'm super exicted!

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