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KU News Release

March 16, 2005
Contact: Jill Hummels, School of Engineering, (785) 864-2934.

KU engineering students win spot on NASA's 'Weightless Wonder' airplane

LAWRENCE -- Students in the University of Kansas School of Engineering will have a rare opportunity to test a design project in a weightless environment this summer at NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston. The team of 11 students will be one of the first in Kansas to participate in this special NASA program for students.

The KU Microgravity Team will test its work to develop a miniature maneuvering control system for satellites. The project will be flown between June 23 and July 2 on NASA's "Weightless Wonder," a C-9 aircraft used for astronaut training and experiments. The Weightless Wonder creates a reduced-gravity environment by flying several steep climbs and dives that produce 20 to 25 seconds of weightlessness at a time. While weightless, the control system will be tested by flying a set sequence of maneuvers.

The NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program is designed to give undergraduate students a better understanding of the formal procedures surrounding a spaceflight mission. Loral O'Hara, aerospace engineering senior from Sugar Land, Texas, and team leader, says the project has been an eye-opening experience.

" I've actually started a list of everything I'm learning because there is so much," O'Hara said.

To compete for a spot on the Weightless Wonder, students developed a proposal for a reduced-gravity experiment and submitted it to NASA. More than 100 schools submitted a proposal, and only 50 student teams from 38 universities across the country were selected. Pittsburg State University also was accepted and will participate this summer.

The KU team is an offshoot of the Kansas Universities Technology Evaluation Satellite (KUTESat) program. The KUTESat project is divided into three phases. In phase one, KU students design, build and operate a CubeSat, a small cube-shaped satellite that will be flown in low Earth orbit. The team represents phase two, in which students develop a miniature maneuvering control system for a future satellite. The final phase, the MIST mission, will develop and simultaneously test prototype satellites.

During flight week, the KU students will have two days to test their design with two chances to fly. The students also will participate in physiological training in the hypobaric chamber, tour Johnson Space Center and listen to various speakers. Four students from KU will be able to ride along during the experiments.

Teams accepted to the NASA program participate in outreach activities that are designed to encourage high school students with an interest in math, science and space exploration. Students on the team will travel to schools in western Kansas and the Kansas City area in April and May to discuss and display their project.

Trevor Sorensen, associate professor of aerospace engineering, and Ray Taghavi, professor of aerospace engineering, are in charge of the project. The Kansas Space Grant Consortium also is providing support for the project.

For more information, visit or

Western Kansas schools include Colby High School, Dodge City High School, Garden City High School and Liberal High School. Kansas City, Kan., schools include J.C. Harmon High School, F.L. Schlagle High School, Sumner Academy, Washington High School and Wyandotte High School.
KU team members, their hometowns, majors, parents and high schools are:

From Lawrence
Sergey Dremin, sophomore in computer engineering, son of Victor and Elena Dremin; Lawrence High School.

From Halstead
Austin Pyle, sophomore in aerospace engineering, son of Kevin and Mary Jo Pyle; Halstead High School.

From Newton
Zach Schauf, sophomore in aerospace engineering, son of Eugene and Stacy Schauf; Newton High School.

From Lenexa
Robert Zernickow, senior in aerospace engineering, son of Kent and Karen Zernickow; Shawnee Mission West High School.

From Olathe
Katie Lollis, senior in aerospace engineering, daughter of James and Denese Lollis; Olathe East High School.

From Overland Park
Ben Parrott, sophomore in aerospace engineering, son of Debra James; Shawnee Mission North High School.

From Basehor
Joe Munn, junior in aerospace engineering, son of Robert and Kristy Munn; Basehor-Linwood High School.

From Seneca
Matt Lueger, senior in electrical engineering, son of James and Joan Lueger; Nemaha Valley High School.

From Colby
Jesse Jacobsen, junior in aerospace engineering, son of Eric and Belinda Jacobsen; Colby High School.

From Edmond
Eric Buschelman, senior in electrical engineering, son of Richard and Elizabeth Buschelman; Edmond Memorial High School.

From Sugar Land
Loral O'Hara, senior in aerospace engineering, daughter of Paul and Cynthia O'Hara; William P. Clements High School.


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