CAPE-2, the second phase of the Cajun Advanced Picosatellite Experiment is now in development. The first phase culminated in the launch of CAPE‐1, a small communications satellite built to the CubeSat standard (10 cm cube with a mass of 1 kg), on a DNEPR rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on April 17, 2007.  With the successful flight, UL became the first school in Louisiana to launch its own satellite.

Since that time, the CAPE‐2 team has been planning and preparing for a second launch opportunity with a completely new design and a new technical and educational mission. The purpose of the CAPE‐2 satellite project is to provide university students with valuable experience working on a complex aerospace project and to prepare them for careers in the aerospace field. The satellite project also provides the opportunity for many enriching K‐12 educational outreach opportunities. Over the past several years, the CAPE project has involved various educational initiatives at local schools and has developed an “Education Plan” which will formalize and integrate these K‐12 activities and set in place an on‐going educational enterprise to engage students and inspire them to pursue education and careers in STEM (Science‐Technology‐Engineering‐Math) related fields.

The CAPE‐2 mission consists of three integrated projects leading up to the launch and tracking of the CAPE‐2 satellite: a weather balloon project (CrawSat III), a floating buoy project, and the CAPE‐2 satellite itself.

On October 15, the team conducted a communication range test for the weather balloon portion of the project, CrawSat III. This test was designed to ensure the balloon’s radio would be able to transmit correctly at various altitudes and distances to the primary receiver at the C.A.P.E. Ground Station. Students were able to simulate different altitudes and distances by placing different levels of attenuation on the balloon board’s antenna, while keeping the radio and accompanying electronics in one location.

Initially the test was attempted from a parking tower in downtown Lafayette, but transmission failed after inserting over 40 dB of attenuation. It was theorized that the failure was due to the angle of the parking tower in relation to the ground station. The test site was then moved to the top the Chase Tower in downtown Lafayette.

The new location resulted in a successful test, with attenuation reaching around 70 dB, demonstrating that the balloon package could successfully transmit to the C.A.P.E. ground station in Lafayette from its launch point in Lake Charles, Louisiana until its landing in east Louisiana.

Middle school students at the NP Moss Middle School’s STEM Academy are already involved in the CrawSat III project. They are hard at work preparing "PearlSat" experimental payloads which will fly attached to the weather balloon at the next launch.

PearlSats are ping pong balls which are cut in half to carry science experiments designed by the students with guidance from their teachers. The PearlSats are strung together like a string of pearls and attached to the weather balloon to form a payload. When the weather balloon is launched it will reach a maximum altitude of approximately 100,000 feet exposing the payload to near-space conditions of temperature, vacuum, and radiation. The instrumentation package relays sensor and tracking data to the ground station, which posts the data to the web in real‐time. At a signal from ground control, the payload and instrumentation package detach and parachute to the ground and are retrieved.

On Wednesday, November 17, 2010, a webinar was arranged in the NP Moss Middle School gymnasium for about 300 students to hear Dr. Bob Twiggs with Morehead State University explain the various aspects of the PearlSat balloon project. Mr. Nick Pugh and CAPE‐2 student Rizwan Merchant were on‐site answering questions and helping with the webinar. The webinar began at 8:35 and lasted for about 30 minutes.

C.A.P.E. would like to give special thanks to Glenn Thibodeaux for his assistance and for allowing the team to use the Chase Tower rooftop for the test.


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