TJ satellite orbits Earth, makes history

On Nov. 19 the first satellite designed and built by high school students was launched into space. Thomas Jefferson High School, the selective STEM-focused magnet school in Arlington, VA, recently completed their 7 year project that put a satellite into space. Weighing only 2 lbs., the student-made satellite is 3.9 × 3.9 × 4.5 inches and is called the TJ3Sat.

The launch was run by the U.S. military’s Operationally Responsive space office known as ORS-3. A record-setting 28 cubesats, including the TJ3Sat, was taken up.

The TJ3Sat is a nanosatellite, and the technology used is extremely similar to that used in smartphones. It is equipped with fast processors, sensors, GPS receivers and high-resolution cameras, which results in a satellite that is low cost and lightweight.

NASA believes the emergence of the low cost satellites like TJ3Sat will provide greater opportunities for students to get involved in hands-on science projects in the future.

“It used to be that kids growing up wanted to be an astronaut,” Andrew Petro, program executive for small spacecraft technology at NASA, said in a statement. “I think we might be seeing kids saying, what they want to do is build a spacecraft. The idea here is that they really can do that.”

Ranked consistently among top high schools in the country by U.S News and World Report, TJ has the overall highest average SAT scores in the entire country. The high school has also been noted for the highest performing AP Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, AP French Language, AP Government and Politics, and AP U.S History courses among all schools worldwide.

Although the students had experts working alongside them for guidance, the project was mainly student run. Abhay Sikka, a sophomore interested in becoming a computer hardware engineer, believes that Lake Braddock, too, could make something like this.

“It was pretty cool for them, and if we put enough time into it, and have something willing to pay for the equipment (I think LB could make a satellite too),” he said.

As science and technology is continually being stressed in high school curriculum, it may not be long before Lake Braddock follows TJ’s lead and the Bruins ascend into outer space themselves.