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USF students operate space satellites from inside a mall

Space Drone
Posted at 3:31 PM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 17:57:26-04

TAMPA — Inside Tampa’s University Mall, just down from the food court there are a group of USF’s engineering students tracking satellites.

Communication satellites they designed, built, and now operate from inside the mall.

“Engineering can happen anywhere. You take a tool, take apart an electronics device, you are doing engineering work. The where doesn’t really matter as much as The who and the when," said doctoral student Peter Jorgensen.

The 'CubeSats' are the size of a sandwich.

“Ultimately it was a hunk of metal with a bunch of electronics inside," said Jorgensen.

They have launched in January thanks to a Space X rocket.

But all this is not just a school project.

USF’s Institute of Applied Engineering has an $85-million contract with the Department of Defense.

“It bodes well for their futures. It bodes well for all of our futures. Because now we have students that are graduating with real-world experience," said Dr. Robert Bishop, Dean of USF's College of Engineering.

This team launched three satellites that are orbiting the Earth, running off solar power.

“When the satellites are overhead which happens a little bit in the morning and a little bit in the middle of the night, the antenna will follow the track as the satellites pass overhead," said Jorgensen.

The engineers are also studying cyber attacks like the ones that crippled a meat-processing company and a water treatment plant in Oldsmar.

Officials here say what they do here isn’t classified, but it is controlled.

And it just might shape the future in space and down here on the ground.