Orbital Sciences to launch satellite made by Virginia high school students

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Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp. will send a satellite designed and built by Virginia high school students into Earth orbit aboard a rocket next week.

The small satellite, known as TJCubeSat (TJ³Sat), was designed, built and tested by students from the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria.

Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers.

TJ³Sat will be launched aboard the U.S. Air Force’s ORS-3 mission as one of more than two dozen secondary payloads that a Minotaur rocket will carry into orbit.

The launch is scheduled to take place 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility off Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Volunteers from Orbital’s technical staff have worked with the students at the high school on the satellite for several years, providing engineering oversight.

The company made its space testing facilities available and provided financial support for the project.

The TJ³Sat project was developed as way to interest students in space-related science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

The cube-shaped satellite measures approximately 3.9x3.9x4.5 inches and weighs about two pounds.

The TJ³Sat’s payload is a phonetic voice synthesizer that converts strings of text to a voice message. Once converted, the message is transmitted back to Earth over amateur radio frequencies.

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