This March, students from Brown University have recently pushed the limits for robot hobbyists and professional aerospace engineers alike, by creating and launching a satellite built from a $20 microprocessor, 48 Energizer AA batteries and a drag sail made from Kapton polyimide film.
The National Research Council of Italy collaborated with the students with support from The Amateur Radio Satellite Corporation (AMSAT), D-Orbit, La Sapienza-University of Rome, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Rhode Island Space Grant. The project was named “SBUDNIC” by its creators and, after a variety of thermal and vibrational tests, the satellite was launched into the stars.
As the project rode alongside Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket, SBUDNIC successfully tracked 27,000 pieces of space debris under the Department of Defense’s Space Surveillance Network (SSN).
After many late nights of student trials and university support, the budget ended up at $10,000 compared to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket budget of $62 million. SBUDNIC proves that projects with big impacts can be conducted with a small budget.
However, this is not the first time that Brown University students have produced cutting-edge technology. NASA also selected the PVDX satellite in 2021 to be launched which further contributed to Brown University’s low-cost science projects. PVDX’s duty was to test the performance of perovskite solar cells and also engage K-12 students with the possibilities of space exploration.
Journalists at Brown reached out to the President of the PVDX Operation Sarang Mani to provide insight into the satellite creators.
“It’s a huge validation of all the time and effort that everyone on the team has invested into this,” Mani said. “I think it speaks volumes to the amazing pool of young people who are excited about space and are working to make it more accessible.”