SEAHAWKS IN SPACE: SpaceX launches rocket containing UNCW satellite

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — SpaceX launched a rocket carrying 64 small satellites Monday including one from UNCW.

UNCW Research Team Member Sara Rivero-Calle says the nano-satellite is the size of a shoe box and weighs less than 11 pounds.

“I think that people should be proud, that in Wilmington, we’re doing very good science. We’re working with the best of the best,” said Rivero-Calle.

She says UNCW will be using it to study ocean color and that the camera on it has 10 times better resolution than previously used satellites.

“Even though it’s very light and small, the resolution of the imagery that we’re going to obtain with it is going to be 10 times better than previous satellites that were built to study the ocean color,” said Rivero-Calle.

Rivero-Calle says the project was funded with $4.2 million in grants from the Moore Foundation, and was launched by SpaceX and Spaceflight at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

She says studying color can tell us a lot about the health of certain coastal areas.

“A lot of people think that the ocean is always blue or green, but it’s not,” Rivero-Calle said. “It can vary. We use those changes to tell us about the productivity and health of the ocean, and ultimately we want to track the carbon in the ocean.”

Unlike most satellite ocean color images which typically cost about $1,000 each, the images from UNCW’s satellite will be free to the public, thanks to some help from NASA.

“Whether you are here in North Carolina, or you are in Kuala Lumpur, or you are in Europe, you can go ahead, go to the website, and download the data and do research with it,” said Rivero-Calle.

She says the next step is to wait for the first beep or beacon from the satellite, and then start using it to harvest data.

Click here to learn more about the satellite and how you can access the imagery.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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