HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Artemis I is less than a week from launch! NASA officials have conducted a Flight Readiness Review with the conclusion that they are ready to fly. Catching a ride with the 322-foot rocket are 10 spacecraft about the size of a large cereal box, including Team Miles.
News 19 sat down with Wesley Faler the head of the Team Miles group.
“Team Miles started as a core group of friends who wanted to find out if their ideas for plasma thruster would actually be something worthwhile,” Faler explained. “NASA came up with this contest to really see what citizen scientists can do.”
That contest is the Cube Quest Challenge. The competition is for teams to design, build and deliver flight-qualified, small satellites that can complete a mission near and beyond the moon.
The CubeSat was one of three chosen to compete in the semi-finals of NASA’s Cube Quest Challenge and earned a spot on Artemis I. However, Team Miles is the only one of those three that will be launching on that mission.
Faler explained the other two semi-finalists were headed by university teams and with the pandemic, they simply didn’t make the Artemis I deadlines. Faler’s team did everything within their power to make sure they would be on this mission.
“We were willing to have downgraded anything in order to make sure that we flew without breaking promises…We’re not gold plating anything, we’re on the rocket and that is what matters,” he said.
Team Miles’ mission is to test a propulsion system that uses low-frequency electromagnetic waves called ionic plasma thrusters. It will also have on board a software-defined radio to communicate with Earth.
“The experiment is going to give us a lot of info about plasma densities out in deep space and I think that’s going to shed some light on the Earth’s magnetic sphere or storms,” Faler explained. “This could start to change the way the world does satellite communications. It would take a lot of cost out of future missions because most of your satellite budget is spent on communications.”
Team Miles will be one of the last CubeSats to deploy, about seven hours after launch. Its mission will last for up to a year.
Some quotes have been added to Team Miles, just in case there are any encounters of a third kind. Including quotes from the television show Firefly, a Robert Frost poem and a traveler’s blessing.
“We have some messages hopefully inspirational for the aliens that might meet up with us or future humans who finally get out right out there for vacation,” Faler told News 19.
When asked about how it feels to have a launch date in sight, Faler chuckled.
“That’s an awesome question with complicated sort of emotions,” he said. “I think for the top contributors for our team there is an incredible sense of relief or we’re afraid to hope because of the reality of air travel these days… I think we’re able to worry about those things because there is this confidence that our satellite is going to perform.”
If Team Miles is successful it will be the first spacecraft of its size to travel the distance it plans to cover – 59.6 million miles.
Faler especially wanted to give a special shout-out to the Cube Quest Challenge.
“They basically showed you how they wanted technical writing done and in a tremendous way that made it possible for us to be here… They structured it to teach and it turned out to be phenomenally useful. Jumpstarting industry is teaching it,” he said.
You can keep up with Team Miles and all the other CubeSats launching with the Artemis I mission on our News 19 Artemis page. News 19 will have LIVE coverage of the Artemis I launch beginning at 5 a.m. on August 29.