Students to Control Satellites from New Mobile Lab

Santa Clara University's School of Engineering added a new tool to its program that monitors and controls satellites. The Mobile Mission Control Lab (MMCL) is a 28-foot trailer loaded with equipment that allows students to communicate with satellites for longer periods of time than ever before. "The satellites we control for NASA and our industry partners only fly over the local area a few times a day and only for a few minutes each time," says Engineering Professor Chris Kitts. "This mobile station makes us more efficient and agile. We now have the potential to more than double our communication time. It's a huge learning opportunity for our students."

Santa Clara University is the only school in the country with a student-centric program that operates government and industry satellites on a professional basis. The program continues to expand, as students will control at least eight additional NASA satellites to be launched in 2015. Right now, students test, train, and experiment with the MMCL using a NASA satellite in orbit that has completed its primary science mission. The mobile lab should be ready to operate at least one of the spacecraft set to launch next year.

"Opportunities like this are what I love about my education at Santa Clara," says student Nick Xydes '13, M.S. '14. "This isn't just a student project. I'm actually controlling these satellites for NASA and private companies on a professional level. It's one cool way kids who grew up dreaming about space exploration can have a taste of the adventure." The School of Engineering also plans to use the MMCL to interest kids in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. SCU students will take the lab to local elementary, middle, and high schools where young students will see for themselves what it's like to control satellites and run real missions.

"This is one great example of our 'Engineering with a Mission' goal," says Engineering Dean Godfrey Mungal. "These students not only will get hands-on experience and help run experiments that could better society, but also they'll communicate that experience and inspire the next generation of great engineers."

About Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California's Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master's and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master's universities, California's oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

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