Amateur Space News April 7, 2014

Today's headlines include high school students sending experiments to the International Space Station, amateur satellite and rocketry projects, using satellites to document human rights abuses in South Sudan, and another profile of a Mars One candidate.

Fish Hawk Creek Elementary School students have an experiment ready for the International Space Station. According to the Tampa Bay Tribune’s interview, astronauts on the station will germinate lettuce seeds in a Nanoracks experiment module. At the same time as the students will germinate a control sample. When the sprouting plants return to Earth, the students will compare any differences caused by the microgravity conditions in orbit. Their space project is one of fifteen educational microgravity experiments going to the space station in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.

Amsat, the original American amateur satellite organization, appointed Jerry Buxton as Vice President of Engineering. Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that Buxton worked for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for four decades. Much of that time Buxton was a project manager working on dispatching systems. He first volunteered with Amsat over thirty years ago. His first priority as VP-Engineering will be to complete Amsat’s Fox-1 project.

The New York Times article about the small satellite revolution highlights several amateur-oriented satellite projects. The Kickstarter-funded KickSat project will launch into orbit this month and release hundreds of Sprites - circuit-board satellites. Another Kickstarter-funded project, the ArduSat reached orbit last year and is collecting data for the project’s sponsors.

Competition for the International Rocketry Challenge, the annual American-British-French contest for student rocket scientists, is heating up. Students at the Rainer Endowed School won the Northern Ireland finals of the United Kingdom Aerospace Youth Rocketry Challenge. Teams from seven schools across Northern Ireland competed to launch rockets carrying two raw eggs to an altitude of 250 meters and recover the eggs intact. The four students on the winning team will compete in the UK Rocketry Challenge in late June. In the United States, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported on two local finalists from the Frenship High School that advanced to the national Team America Rocket Contest. Not every team advances, but that doesn’t mean the effort is wasted. The Iowa City Press Citizen’s wrote about City High science club students who, though they didn’t meet the altitude requirements, took a completely student-run approach to their first rocket contest.

Elsewhere in educational rocketry, Auburn University students taught middle school students to launch model rockets. The college students are part of Auburns entry in the Nasa Student Launch project, a program that challenges undergraduate teams to design and launch high-performance rockets almost five kilometers into the troposphere. Nasa requires teams to engage with local schools. Auburn’s team conducted a three-day workshop that let 700 students launch their own model rocket.

Science fiction site io9.com featured Astrobotic, one of the teams competing in the Google Lunar X-Prize. Astrobotic tested its software control systems on Masten Aerospace’s Xombie vertical-take-off-and-landing rocket.

Human rights organizations the Enough Project and the Satellite Sentinel Project documented devastation in South Sudan. Remote sensing company DigitalGlobe collected images from its network of satellites that show burned homes and marketplaces in the town of Kaka in the country’s oil-producing Upper Nile state.

Local media coverage of Mars One continues. The Leaf-Chronicle interviewed Heidi Beemer, a Lieutenant in the US Army. She has already begun her own outreach efforts to schools around Fort Campbell to highlight the importance of science and math education.