Of the four payloads headed into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on Friday, June 22nd, one comes from a very special place. Simply named IRVINE 01, this satellite belongs to the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program of Irvine, CA., an organization of over one hundred student members from six public high schools. The program collectively assembled, tested, and is about to launch their first solar powered CubeSat. 

For the past several years, Accion Systems’ founders Natalya Bailey and Louis Perna have been mentoring the students of the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program on satellite propulsion systems. They were so involved that the Irvine Program selected Accion System’s revolutionary in-space propulsion system TILE 50 and integrated it into the design of the CubeSat system. It was an ideal choice because the TILE 50 is small, analog, and has just the right amount of capability for a CubeSat.  

The mission of the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program is one that is near and dear to the Accion team’s heart: “Supporting efforts and inspiring students to get excited about STEM and space technology is an exercise in ‘paying it forward’ for all of us,” says CEO Natalya Bailey. “We each had a person or a moment that inspired us to push the boundaries of what was possible in space, and we are so excited to be able to provide that to the next generation.”

The Irvine CubeSat STEM Program is a joint educational endeavor to teach, train and inspire the next generation of STEM professionals. The students’ main objective is to assemble, test and launch a nano-satellite into LEO. Aboard IRVINE 01 has a low-resolution camera that will take pictures of Venus, stars and other celestial objects. Data from these images can be used to calculate distances to stars and determine pointing accuracy and satellite stability. 

Lead Test & Customer Engineer David Tovani was tapped to head the integration efforts as the students, mentors and supporters in Irvine pulled together their inaugural satellite. “We are inspired by what these kids are doing and couldn’t be more supportive of the organization’s mission,” says Tovani. “For Accion, this was the perfect opportunity to test out our design, manufacturing processes, delivery systems for flight hardware, and customer integration management.” 

Our mission is to develop advanced technologies for the space industry; specifically by pioneering high-quality, affordable in-space propulsion systems. This launch will be Accion’s first hardware launch into space. The hardware has been tested before – many times on the ground and twice when our co-founders were at MIT – but this is a big first for Accion. 

In fact, the whole mission is part of a new movement in the space industry. Known as “New Space”, the movement of young, entrepreneurial aerospace companies around the world lowering barriers to entry for missions into space is growing. The launch, organized by Rocket Lab, is a prime example of New Space philosophy ushering in a new era of unprecedented access to space. We can think of no better manifestation of New Space than the fact that a group of passionate, motivated high school students are putting a satellite into outer space this weekend. 

We encourage you to follow the progress of this remarkable group of young people – led by co-founders Kain Sosa and Dr. Brent Freeze. The best way to stay up to date on their progress is https://www.rocketlabusa.com/live-stream/. You can follow Irvine CubeSat STEM Program through FacebookInstagram and Twitter.  And if you are so inclined, you can financially support their efforts here.

Accion will continue to work with  Irvine CubeSat STEM Program for future satellite launches in conjunctions with other demo and commercial projects. Stay tuned for updates on IRVINE 02, which is currently scheduled to launch later in 2018.