Students and professor develop satellite software

Story by Sydney Anthony, Contributing writer

Four Murray State students and Marc Beck, assistant professor in the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business, are working to develop software that will be used at ground stations to process and display data from Morehead State University’s satellite CXBN-2.

Beck said CXBN-2 will be studying cosmic background radiation when it launches at the end of the year.  The data collected will be sent to ground stations at Morehead State and other locations still to be determined.  Murray State’s software will be running in these ground stations.

Seth Pritchett, sophomore from Henderson, Kentucky, who is working on the satellite project, said the software receives a signal and then decides if the signal is a telemetry packet or a response packet. Then it will sort the signal to display on the user interface.

Beck said his students are undergraduates completing work at a graduate student level.  He said they organize themselves and they acted very professional on the trip to Morehead State in September to work on testing and discuss specific details the software still needed.

He said the only problem with the collaboration is the distance because Morehead is six hours from Murray. However, they have weekly teleconferences.

Beck said he was able to set up the collaboration with Morehead State because of the time he worked on a satellite project at Morehead while working on his master’s degree.

He said he is working on future collaborations in hopes of expanding this to more students. He is also working on a research grant proposal for the NASA Research Infrastructure Development Grant. He said he hopes to one day be able to hire students to work on similar projects.

Beck said the project building was funded by Morehead State, as they built the satellite,  and Murray State has only paid for transportation between schools.

He said he chose the four students to work on the project from top students in his computer science classes.

He said three students on his team are receiving credit hours and getting graded for their work on the satellite and another is volunteering his time and gaining experience.  

Beck said he hopes that the collaborations with Morehead State can continue because they have everything necessary to build the satellite, they just needed Murray State’s software developers.

Pritchett said he will be doing a presentation with Daniel Kamrath , junior from Newburgh, Indiana, at the Kentucky Academy of Science in Louisville, Kentucky, in November on their contributions to the project.  He said this project is helping him gain experience pertaining to his computer science major.

Kamrath said this project is exposing the team to a real atmosphere of developing software.

He said it puts more than just a grade on the tasks, it allows the students to understand that their work will be used by real people.  

Kamrath said keeping in touch with Morehead State has been interesting.

“There is an impressive level of synchronization despite the circumstances,” Kamrath said.

Daniel Kineman, senior from Vienna, Illinois, who is also working on the project  said it has allowed the students to work through challenges that arise from developing software that can easily change.  

He said specifications may change and expectations may change in what the software must do as the project continues.  He said this opportunity has allowed the students to apply their skills and knowledge toward a productive and scientific nature.