BOZEMAN A miniature satellite now under construction and scheduled for launch in November will carry into space the names of Montana school children.
Students and teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade who are interested in the project should log on to a Web site and register before July 15, said Mike Murray of the Montana Space Grant Consortium at Montana State University-Bozeman.
The site is www.montana.edu/msgc/merope/. Students can provide their names, school and hometown via the Web site. The submissions will be compiled onto a small compact disc and rocketed into space with the satellite.
Our emphasis is on students, but all Montanans are welcome to send their names into space on Montanas first satellite, Murray said.
The miniature cube-shaped satellite, which measures just four inches on each side, is named MEROPE for Montana Earth Orbiting Pico Explorer. Its being designed and built by students in the new MSU Space Science and Engineering Lab in Bozeman.
The lab gives students experience building inexpensive space hardware and may help fill an employment gap in the space-technology industry created by a generation of engineers reaching retirement age, said David Klumpar, MSU research professor and lab director.
The 60 MSU graduate and undergraduates students have until July to finish and test the satellite before sending it to a private launch provider in Ogden, Utah.
From there, MEROPE and about a dozen other mini-satellites built at other universities will be put into launch tubes and delivered to a launch site in Kazakhstan in the former Soviet Republic. In November, a Russian Dnepr rocket will carry the satellites into space.
Once in space, the Montana satellite will repeat the science experiment done in 1958 by Explorer 1, the United States first Earth-orbiting satellite, Murray said. By measuring radiation levels in space, Explorer 1 helped discover the Van Allen radiation belts doughnut-shaped wedges of intense radiation that surround the Earth.
MSU students will control the orbiting satellite from Bozeman, and others can track the satellites progress through the Web site.
In addition, university students will begin visiting Montana classrooms next fall to talk about MEROPE and other pico-satellites that may be developed in the future, Murray said. As plans for future Montana-based space missions unfold, grade schools, middle schools and high schools will have a chance to become involved.
Possible activities include building ground stations at schools, allowing classes to directly downlink data from other satellites, and designing, building and flying high-altitude balloon payloads.
The MEROPE project is funded by the Montana Space Grant Consortium and NASA EPSCOR.
For information, contact Murray at 994-7309 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.