EVANSVILLE - A team of students from the University of Southern Indiana designed and built a satellite that launched last week on a SpaceX rocket heading for the International Space Station. The satellite will collect data for NASA research until the end of its life cycle in January 2020.

Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane says the students worked on the satellite as part of the multi-year, undergraduate Nano Ionospheric Temperature Explorer, or UNITE, CubeSat project. USI student Ryan Loehrlein, who is also an intern at NSWC Crane, called working on the NASA-funded project a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"It's rare for a student be part of an academic engineering project from the early planning stages to implementation," said Loehrlein. "I've been able to gain a unique perspective throughout the research, design, construction, and testing process and I look forward to data collection after launch. Working with a group of smart and talented students has shown me anything can be done with teamwork."

Loehrlein, who is studying mechanical engineering and finance at USI, says the UNITE CubeSat is the first satellite built by a public institution in Indiana. The satellite will deploy from the space station in about one to three months and will orbit the Earth for a year collecting data, weather measurements, temperatures and orbital decay of the spacecraft.

NSWC Crane says the satellite's main mission is to collect data at the end of its life cycle in the ionosphere, or during the final hours the satellite re-enters the Earth's atmosphere just prior to disintegration.