CCU launches South Carolina’s first space satellite program

February 28, 2024
Through the CCU Space Program, students are learning key skills in the areas of space systems and systems engineering.A 3D printed mock-up of CCU’s candidate satellite camera hardware for coastal remote sensing.CCU associate professor Wes Hitt teaches a student how to perform simulations for satellite mission design.

Coastal Carolina University announces the launch of the CCU Space Program, the first such endeavor in South Carolina. The program, which will feature the ChantSat-1 CubeSat, emphasizes a student-centered education that offers unique opportunities to develop skills in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) through practical experiences in planning and executing a space program.

“CCU is proud to be the first higher education institution in the Palmetto State to introduce a program of this kind,” said Sara Hottinger, Ph.D., CCU’s interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This endeavor will provide hands-on experiential learning opportunities and collaboration among academic colleges as students conduct research with the latest technology. The CCU Space Program will allow students to develop strong job-transferrable skills and may inspire the next generation of explorers.”

Through this program, space technology will be leveraged to conduct scientific research aimed at addressing pressing issues in the management of the coastal environment and focus on monitoring and managing coastal erosion, sea-level rise, stormwater runoff, and other ecological concerns critical to the health of South Carolina’s coastal regions. The program is also devoted to maintaining healthy drinking water by utilizing satellite technology to monitor water quality, mitigate stormwater runoff, and implement solutions for sustainable water management in the face of climate change.

Measuring 10x10x30 cm, ChantSat-1 is a 3U CubeSat equipped with visible and infrared camera capabilities, operating in a Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) altitude in a sun-synchronous, polar orbit. The satellite will also feature an innovative “selfie system,” complete with a billboard that features a programmable display. This will allow users on the ground to show custom images and text in the frame of a photograph, all against the grandeur of the low-earth orbit environment as the backdrop.

“I’m thrilled about CCU starting a space program because of the diverse student learning and cross-disciplinary collaboration opportunities it will provide,” said Wes Hitt, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of CCU’s Department of Physics and Engineering Science. “I’d like to recognize the effort and expertise of Mr. Robert Vipperman ’79, a graduate of our marine science program and retired satellite systems engineer, who has been instrumental in helping CCU establish this project. A small satellite program is complex and requires collaboration among scientists, engineers, business project managers, graphic designers, makers, programmers, web developers, and others.”

According to Hitt, students from across campus are involved in the program and its projects. They will increasingly have to work together to solve tough problems, from raising the needed funds, informing the community through outreach, tackling engineering challenges, and putting the data from the mission to best use for South Carolina’s coastal communities.

The CCU Space Program will offer an innovative and educational experience for students in intelligence and security studies. Leveraging the University’s Intelligence Operations Command Center, housed in the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Art’s Department of Intelligence and Security Studies, students will engage in the entire geospatial intelligence cycle, enhancing their educational journey.

In addition, the program will play a crucial role in safeguarding and managing cultural heritage assets, thus preserving South Carolina’s rich history. It also will focus on developing and implementing innovative solutions to mitigate and respond to various natural disasters, such as flooding, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Hitt said these experiences, centered around solving real-world problems on significant projects, are transformative for students, preparing them for exciting careers in 21st-century technology-focused fields.

Charis Williams, a CCU junior engineering major, said: “Working on Coastal’s small satellite design has been an engaging and eye-opening experience. We’ve been working hard to learn how to answer complex questions by simulating specific aspects of the future satellite. It’s a whole world that I never knew existed, but it’s both amazing and scary to work on a project that goes far beyond a purely conceptual dream.”

The CCU Space Program is sponsored by Ansys Inc., Horry County Higher Education Commission, and the University’s Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Gupta College of Science, Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and the HTC Honors College.

For more information or to support the program, click here or email Follow the CCU Space program on social media @ccuinspace.