Launching the SLU: The Final Countdown

Exploring the Small Satellite Industry: A Journey with NASA and Saint Louis University’s Space Systems Research Lab

Are you interested in space exploration, satellite missions, and the excitement and challenges that come with venturing into the small satellite industry? If so, buckle up for an exhilarating journey into the world of space with a Saint Louis University professor and his students as they prepare to launch a satellite mission sponsored by NASA.

Imagine being a high school student with a passion for space, unsure of where that interest could lead you. Then, you step foot on the campus of Saint Louis University and your eyes are opened to a whole new world within the Space Systems Research Lab (SSRL). This is the exact experience Michael Dompke, now a senior studying mechanical engineering, had when he first laid eyes on the SSRL. It was there that he realized he could pursue his dreams of working on space missions.

Under the guidance of Professor Michael Swartwout, a veteran in building and launching satellites, Dompke and his team are on a mission to launch DARLA, a satellite mission that will challenge their skills and push the boundaries of what they thought was possible. DARLA is not just any satellite launch; it is part of a larger mission called DORRE, which focuses on spacecraft autonomy and the ability to make decisions in space without constant Earth-based intervention.

Through hands-on experience in the SSRL, students like Dompke and Nathan Brubaker, who is already a chief engineer at just 19 years old, are gaining invaluable skills and preparing for future careers in the aerospace industry. The SSRL serves as a training ground for the next generation of aerospace engineers, providing opportunities that are hard to come by in a traditional classroom setting.

As the launch date for DARLA draws near, the excitement and anticipation are palpable. The students are working tirelessly to ensure that every detail is perfect, understanding that in the world of space missions, there is little room for error. With the support and guidance of Professor Swartwout, they are ready to take on the challenges and embrace the possibility of failure as part of the learning process.

With DARLA set to launch in 2024, the team at Saint Louis University is ready to make their mark in the small satellite industry. The road ahead may be filled with exhilaration and occasional heartbreak, but one thing is certain: they have the right stuff to soar to new heights in the world of space exploration. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting journey into the final frontier.


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