BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 31 (UPI) — Colorado students took part in an unusual decommissioning of a satellite, bringing the craft into Earth re-entry to burn up in the atmosphere, scientists say.
University of Colorado at Boulder undergraduates, who have been helping to control five NASA satellites from campus, guided the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, out of orbit into Earth’s atmosphere Monday, a university release said.
After seven years of gathering valuable data on the polar regions and helping scientists develop a better understanding of ice sheets and sea ice dynamics, the science package on the satellite failed, leading to the decommissioning.
The control team at the university’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics — made up mostly of undergraduates working alongside LASP professionals — uploaded commands for the satellite to burn its remaining fuel and switched off the transmitter.
“CU-Boulder undergraduates have controlled ICESat for the past seven years from our Mission Operations Center here,” LASP Director Bill Possel said. “Although we are sad to see such a successful science mission come to an end, we are proud of our students’ role in bringing the spacecraft safely out of orbit.”
“They ran calculations to determine where the spacecraft was located and made predictions for NASA ground stations that tracked it,” LASP flight director Darrin Osborne said. “The students did this seven days a week until the decommission was complete.”
“It’s amazing for an undergraduate like me to get hands-on experience controlling multimillion-dollar NASA satellites,” said aerospace engineering sciences student Katelynn Finn, who has been a LASP satellite mission controller for more than a year.
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