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O’Connell students attend the launch of their satellite DJOSpaceToast

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The work of the Engineering Club at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington reached new heights April 17 when their ThinSat project “DJOSpaceToast” satellite was launched into space at NASA’s Wallops Island facility.

Seven of the student mission leaders, along with Melissa Pore, faculty adviser and engineering teacher, received a private tour of the facility and stayed beyond the launch of the Northrup Grumman (NG-11) rocket.

Sophomore Kathryn Howard reflected on the experience. “I was very excited when I first saw the burst of flame under the rocket,” she said. “I will never forget how it felt to see it launch.”

This was the inaugural launch of the Virginia Space ThinSat program that allows students to design, build and launch a picosatellite within a year. NG-11 is delivering several tons of cargo to the International Space Station.

The ThinSat was deployed during the second stage of the Antares rocket. The satellite will transmit data for five days before burning up upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Junior Aidan O’Donovan felt blessed to be part of the experience. “It was a start of a new beginning in space exploration,” he said. “As we watched this NG-11 rocket lift off, we became a part of history.”

O’Connell students will analyze the science and engineering data that is transmitted from the satellite.

A select team from the engineering club has made a dream a reality for our community,” said Pore. “Through long hours of work, dozens of tests, and being challenged with intermittent design changes, they have been able to produce a satellite that has successfully reached orbit on its maiden mission to space. Through their leadership and determination, they are setting a new standard for what students at Bishop O'Connell can achieve.”

Pore said the magic of this project is that “we can complete it in a single academic year, empowering the students with a satellite of their own. Until now, satellite projects have taken multiple years with those who started it graduating before launch, and others inheriting a project they hadn't designed.”

“Seeing the rocket launch was incredible, especially knowing that something I helped build as a high school student is now orbiting the Earth,” said junior Thomas Howard. “Meeting all the people who helped create the ThinSat program was an unforgettable experience.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019