Student club builds satellite with help of grant

Group that earned funding from NASA is hoping for a 2019 or 2020 shuttle launch



“All you have . . . to do is be willing to learn,” Colin Warnn, head of Cougs in Space structures team, said as he discusses his teams’ involvement in designing the overall structure of the satellite.

CODY SCHOELER, Evergreen reporter

A student aerospace club at WSU is working on a satellite named CougSat-1, which they hope to launch at some point in 2019 or 2020 from one of NASA’s rockets.

Funding for the project came from a NASA grant, said Cody Sigvartson, Cougs in Space vice president. Members of the club wrote a research proposal to NASA two years ago and received the grant to fund their research project as a result.

The club has four goals for the satellite: to take a picture and send it back to Earth, reprogram the satellite while it’s in space, support a seed germination experiment in the satellite and broadcast “Go Cougs!” from space, he said.

Sigvartson cofounded the club because of the NASA research proposal, but he said his goal for the club has been more than just the satellite.

“We want to provide students at WSU with a project so they can actually have real experience in the space industry and get a job,” he said.

Sigvartson said one of the hardest parts of building the satellite has been testing it.

“Places like NASA have these machines that are millions and millions of dollars,” he said, “so it’s like, how do we bring this down to our small little scope and do this so it’s actually meaningful testing?”

He said the club has to run a lot of tests to make sure that the satellite is up to NASA’s safety standards and won’t blow up one of their rockets.

Colin Warnn, head of the structures team for Cougs in Space, said one of the tests they have run is a random vibration test.

“[It is] a fancy way of saying we take the satellite and just shake it really, really hard and then if it doesn’t break, nothing bumps into each other, we’ve done our job,” he said.

The structures team works on the hardware of the satellite. Warnn said the team put in a lot of work over the summer and they have developed a design that is 99 percent optimized.

Sigvartson said the club is open to all kinds of students at WSU.

“Our club isn’t just for engineering students, we want to bring in people from all majors,” he said. “We want business students coming in, we want marketing students coming in because we really want to develop this as an organization.”

Warnn is an example of that. He came from a music background and knew nothing about satellite design when he joined Cougs in Space, he said.

“All you have to be able to do is be willing to learn,” Warnn said.

Cougs in Space meets from 5:30 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday in Spark 235 and from 2 to 3:30 p.m. each Sunday in Dana Hall Frank Innovation Zone.