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Out Of This World: Cal Poly Students Getting Set To Send Their CubeSat Aboard Virgin Orbit

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The first attempt failed last May, so hopes are high for a unique space mission scheduled to take to the skies on Sunday.

Virgin Orbit is a modified Boeing 747-400 jet, which will carry a rocket to nearly seven miles high, before being launched into space.

Aboard the Launcher One rocket is a piece of Central Coast Engineering – a small satellite called the Exocube 2, built by students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. 

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket will be carried aloft under the wing of a modified Boeing 747 which takes off from Mojave Air and Space Port, to an altitude of 35,000 feet…released and fired into space.

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Credit Cal Poly

Student Grace Guarraia led the project and she said it is exciting to have something she's created going into space. 

The CubeSat isn’t the traditional shaped satellite we might think of – it’s small – as Guarria explains, it's only about the size of a loaf of bread. 

"Even though it's small in size, it's discoveries are still going to be monumentus and important for the scientific community," says Guarria. 

Once the CubeSat achieves orbit, a student team will use the CubeSat lab groundstation to download data from the spacecraft.

The data will be useful in better predicting space weather phenomena, in order to forecast potential effects of ions on satellite communications and spacecraft performance.

It’s the second attempt to reach orbit this unique way - by Virgin Orbit – and a delayed launch from December because of COVID restrictions affecting their timetable. 

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Credit Cal Poly