PDS-Princeton University Partnership Launches Out of This World New Program
PDS-Princeton University Partnership Launches Out of This World New Program

PDS ThinSat Program Will Culminate in Antares Rocket-propelled Satellite Space Exploration

Today, STEAM Coordinator Jonathan Tatkon-Coker announced to Upper School classes a thrilling new Princeton University-Princeton Day School partnership and asked for student applications to the program. PDS ThinSat is a co-curricular program offering that will commence shortly and culminate in a November 2019 launch of ThinSat satellites at the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's eastern shore. Twiggs Spacelab will integrate the PDS satellites into the Wallops Flight Facility's launch mission, and students will collect their own satellites' real-time data from orbit.

PDS ThinSAT aims to advance STEAM education with a particular focus on science and engineering. The partnership with Princeton is fueled by a grant to the University and spearheaded by Michael B. Galvin, Senior Technical Support and Mechanical Engineer in Princeton's Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering department. Partnership collaborators in addition to Princeton University, Twiggs and Wallops include Virginia Space, NASA, Orbital ATK, NearSpace Launch, Inc., In a Box, and even the US Navy and Coast Guard. The mission: Students will design their own so-called "thin" satellites to collect data on ultra-low-earth-orbit space, an under-explored space environment given its low gravitational pull and the short lifecycle of matter there (due to incineration). As they prepare their satellites for launch and space flight in an Antares rocket, the PDS ThinSat student teams will be mentored through weekly meetings with the Princeton University ThinSat Team and PDS ThinSAT Program faculty.

"Princeton University's ThinSat partnership with PDS is unique among independent schools," Tatkon-Coker explains, adding that only Princeton Day School and one public school, Princeton HS, were selected to participate in the partnership. Dr. Michael Littman, famed Princeton University Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, who knows PDS well, was a proponent of the PDS-Princeton partnership. Upon approval of the partnership, PDS ThinSat Chief Engineer Tatkon-Coker assembled the PDS ThinSat faculty team, including Chief Scientist Alana Allen and Chief Computer Scientist Dr. Theodore Brasoveanu, and meticulously developed a comprehensive PDS ThinSat program experience that includes several spectacular components and well-thought-out milestones. "We're truly excited to be getting underway as soon as the student teams have been assembled," says Tatkon-Coker. Need we add, stay tuned for more? -Melanie Shaw

Photo: Antares rocket booster; photo credit Jared Haworth for Spaceflight Insider 2015