Local teens will build and send a satellite into Earth orbit

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RAYTOWN, Mo. -- We humans started sending satellites up into space nearly 60 years ago. And according to Universe Today, as of the first of this year there were about 1,100 operational man-made satellites in orbit around the Earth. If all goes as planned there will be one more next spring. That’s when a satellite built by this week’s FOX 4 young achievers is scheduled to be launched.

Students at the two high schools in the Raytown School District are doing something very rare in metro area education. It’s a first for Raytown and the people who run the school district say they haven’t heard of it happening before in another area school.

“This project, we have gotten a team of different people of all different backgrounds around the school and we’re going to construct, program and launch a satellite into orbit,” said Raytown High School senior and FOX 4 Young Achiever Jordan Meyer.

Raytown South and Raytown High are on a mission to space. Small core groups of students at both schools, most of them science focused, have formed a launch team that will work together to get the project off the ground.

“To do all of this together, I think, is like a whole group effort with the school,” said Raytown South High School sophomore and FOX 4 Young Achiever Raju Nichols. “Same thing with Raytown. We all try to come together as one for this one project we’re doing.”

The students have received specs, drawings, electronics and other materials from their partner in the Mission To Space project, Interorbital Systems, a commercial aerospace company that does commercial space launches. Their satellite will be a little larger than a soda can. They’ll build it from scratch, program it and determine what information they want it to gather while it’s in low Earth orbit.

“We benefit from real life application, honestly,” said Raju. “You can do notes all day and everything but when you’re actually hands on with something like this, it really shows you how, what the engineering life is like.”

The project is student driven and student led. Teachers and experts from the community are connected to facilitate and guide students through problem areas.

“We want them to make their own decisions,” said Raytown High School math teacher and team advisor Seth Colston. “We really want them to get involved. Just being able to have this be student led, it allows them to make decisions about it and make them learn more from it.”

And those already in the core group will recruit more members to the launch team, perhaps another 50 or so, to fill a variety of roles beyond the engineering and programming.

“Just connecting Raytown High and Ray South allows us to build a unified force,” said Colston, “and really kind of bring the whole community together. And also we are planning to use our experiences in the curriculum.”

The Raytown Mission to Space project has an ambitious nine month timeline. By November the students expect to have a prototype of their satellite built and they’ll test it in December. They’ll perfect it and next May they’ll send the satellite to the coast of California to be launched into space by Interorbital Systems aboard a Neptune rocket.

“I imagine I’m going to be pretty nervous,” said Jordan. “All this, having all this work. ‘It’s going to work. It’s going to work.’ And then, hopefully, when it does work, just excitement and being able to see all the work pay off in the end.” And all systems are go.

The Raytown School District has budgeted $15,000 for the Mission to Space project, $10,000 of which goes to Interorbital Systems. The team won’t be making the trip to California for the launch but they’ll keep tabs on it live through virtual resources. And you can track the progress of the team on Facebook and Twitter at #Raytown2Space.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.