Southwest Va. students working on satellites that will launch in to space

WISE COUNTY, VA (WJHL)- Groups of students in Southwest Virginia are working on some cutting edge technology that will launch in to space next fall. They have spent hours of their own time after school working on ThinSats.

“That we are able to do that here and we’re just in high school it’s just amazing to think about,” Eastside High School junior Jeffery Hunsaker said.

If you’ve never heard of ThinSats you are not alone, but these high school students have become experts on this new technology.

“We basically have small modular computers that have little sensors on them that we can take outside, we can send on drones, and balloons, and eventually on a rocket to gather data about earth, its atmosphere,” Hunsaker said.

“You’re getting to see the research, you can see the temperature, you can see the pressure,” Central High School sophomore Elle Smith said.

The students are learning the technology, narrowing down what data they hope to find, then launching their ThinSats.

“I’ve always been fascinated with space and technology and I’ve always just had to watch as other people get to do it, but the ability to experience and work on it first hand is just phenomenal,” Hunsaker said.

The little satellites will hitch a ride on the Antares rocket, a rocket that brings supplies to the International Space Station. In the fall of 2018, the students will get to see their ThinSats take off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Then, from the ground the students will be able to track the data from the atmosphere.

“One of the big ideas we have bounced around is looking at composition of ozone and greenhouse gases,” Hunsaker said.

The project is sponsored by Virginia Space. Jane Carter teaches chemistry and environmental sciences at Eastside H.S. and is overseeing the ThinSat teams across Southwest Virginia. There are 63 ThinSats going in to orbit, and nine teams from Southwest Virginia.

Carter said this program is an invaluable opportunity for these students.

“To not look at current ways that they are used but dream beyond that, look to the future ways, what are those companies, what are those applications that we don’t even know about right now,” Carter said.

Carter said for these students, it shows them, literally, that the stars are the limit.

“To let that little piece within them that has been that dream start to realize that it can come alive,” Carter said.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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