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Satellite With Taylor Ties Launched from International Space Station

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Interior of International Space Station

A small satellite designed and built by a Grant County company with Taylor University ties is in low-earth orbit following its release Tuesday evening from the International Space Station.

The Globalstar Experiment and Risk Reduction Satellite (GEARRS) was developed by Grant County-based NearSpace Launch, Inc. (NSL) and funded by the Air Force to demonstrate near real-time 24/7 global communication.

NSL is a new corporation formed in Grant County in June 2013. NSL’s purpose is to advance technology, service and education in Space Science and Engineering (STEM). NSL has employed a number of Taylor University Computer Science and Engineering faculty, staff and students over the past year. This summer, NSL plans to employ five students and one student graduate. Dr. Hank Voss, Professor of Physics at Taylor, is the interim president, and chief scientist and Mr. Jeff Dailey is the chief engineer.

Developers say GEARRS will for the first time provide two-way satellite-to-satellite connection to the Globalstar constellation of 40 satellites spaced out over the globe. Globalstar is a $2B dollar communication network for terrestrial based phones and GPS monitor of ground-based assets.

According to Voss, future satellites will be more robust if they have 24/7 hour/day communication with reliable, low-risk, global coverage. Currently, most low earth orbit (LEO) satellites can only transfer data twice a day for 20 minutes when they pass over ground stations. Taylor-Technology Satellite (TSAT), which was launched last year, proved Globalstar data reliability and coverage, but was a relatively slow downlink for the satellite data. Developers say GEARRS will prove the reliability and performance of a fast Globalstar two-way connection between the satellite and ground command.

GEARRS is an autonomous satellite with its own solar power system, communication system, control system, flight computers, thermal subsystem and instrument array, and is Indiana’s first commercial satellite. It was launched last summer from Wallops Island, Va., on an Orbital Sciences (ORB-2) rocket. Deployment from the ISS was delayed while NASA repaired a faulty control for a CubeSat release mechanism.  

After an 86 minute delay, the first signals were picked up from the satellite over the Pacific Ocean. Both the Duplex and two Simplex units worked, despite  the battery recovering from a nearly complete discharge from the long wait period in the Space Station. The batteries are currently being recharged with the solar arrays and regular orbit transmissions of data are on-going. GEARRS d­­ata analysis is currently underway by Taylor students.

NSL is currently providing state-of-art communication products for satellites (EyeStar) and for high altitude balloons (EyePod). Additionally, it develops custom small satellites and operates a secure data processing service for universities, industries and government agencies. GEARRS #2 was delivered by NSL to the Air Force and is scheduled for launch in April, 2015. In addition, NSL is currently developing satellite power systems, solar array systems, communication systems and data processing systems for universities such as MIT, University of Illinois, Michigan Tech, Univ. of CO Bolder,  New Mexico Tech and for the Air Force and National Science Foundation projects (NSF).