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"Innovation, the size of a loaf of bread"

Satellite engineering by ASU undergraduate students

Welcome to ASU's newest initiative into space


Mission Profile

Phoenix is a 3U CubeSat, designed by the voluntary efforts of an interdisciplinary team of undergraduates at Arizona State University. It is a capability driven mission, aimed to study the Urban Heat Island (UHI) Effect through infrared remote sensing and promote a more sustainable urban environment. Phoenix will image cities around the US in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to collect information on how the layout and composition of a city lends to a rise in surface temperature.

Studies show that overall due to the impact on the quality of air, urban energy usage, and even human health, the UHI Effect impairs the quality of life as urban areas continue to grow. In the end, the Phoenix Science Team aims to apply their research with the collected images to working directly with urban planners to mitigate this concern within the Phoenix Metropolitan area and the other cities examined through the mission.   

The Phoenix project was accepted from the proposal phase into the NASA Undergraduate Student Instrument Project (USIP), Program in April of 2016, which has funded the project through its development, along with contributions from NASA Space Grant. Phoenix will launch through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) sometime in December 2018-January 2019.  From launch, the satellite will orbit the earth in LEO for a period of 2 years to collect data on the UHI Effect.


Orbit Profile:

Apogee: 401 km

Perigee: 409 km

Altitude: 400 km

Orbit Period: 90 minutes


Cities Imaged: The Phoenix satellite will study seven core cities as part of its science objective. One image will be captured each time the satellite passess over the city, collecting images during both the night and day:

Phoenix, AZ; Los Angeles, CA; Atlanta, GA; Houston, TX; Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; and Minneapolis, MN;


Program Objectives

The satellite may be small, but the project is no small feat. Phoenix is an interdisciplinary effort, spanning across five different schools at ASU, including: space systems design, engineering, geographical studies and meteorology, the arts, and journalism. Yet among the many branches that make up the student team, all members strive toward a set of common goals:

  1. Design, build, and test a CubeSat, and successfully launch it into space

  2. Further the education of undergraduate students in their fields of study

  3. Understand the properties that contribute to Urban Heat Islands and develop sustainable solutions to enhance the public well-being

  4. Foster community involvement in space mission design and in developing a more sustainable urban environment

  5. Educate K-12 students on the significant of UHIs, opportunities in STEM fields, and innovations within the space industry


Outreach & Public Involvement

Through outreach efforts in public schools and city libraries and ASU events, the student team has been able to foster public engagement and promote student education within the Phoenix community. Within the first year of the project, Phoenix has been actively involved on the ASU campus during events, has spoken to groups of 80+ students about the importance of the mission, and has helped develop an outreach component for the Tempe History Museum, with the addition of a model replica.

In achieving the goals of Phoenix, the student team hopes to demonstrate the opportunities available at the undergraduate level, and encourage others to pursue their ideas. Phoenix stemmed from the idea that it only takes drive, guidance, support, and one single idea in order to make a difference in the lives of others.


More Information

Want to read about some of the outreach efforts of the student team, play games, and learn more about the students behind the mission? Visit our blogspot here!