NASA Selects Tarleton State for CubeSat Launch Initiative


STEPHENVILLE — For the second consecutive year, a team from Tarleton State University’s Mayfield College of Engineering will participate in NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) with the opportunity to fly an experiment in space.

NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force selected eight schools for the University Nanosatellite Program (UNP). Running May through August, the research and education program will give students the opportunity to perform small satellite research as well as systems engineering training, preparing them to work in the space industry while enhancing small satellite expertise among research faculty at U.S. universities.

Tarleton State, the only Texas university chosen, was one of 34 schools that applied for this year’s UNP Mission Concepts-2 Summer Series. NASA, the Air Force and contractor personnel reviewed the proposals.

“This program reflects the importance for the Department of Defense to educate the next generation of small satellite systems engineers,” said Dr. Rafael Landaeta, Dean of Tarleton State’s Mayfield College of Engineering. “They are seeking to develop engineers who understand the whole process of investigating unknowns, defining a mission and running a mission successfully all from a systems engineering perspective.”

The three-man team, led by the principal investigator for development of the proposal, Dr.  Sotrios Diamantas, features two Tarleton State students, Braden Wells and Ashlan Benson, and a student from McLennan Community College, freshman Lloyd Alcorn.

“At McLennan Community College, we’re proud of our partnership with Tarleton State University and the opportunities that are provided for our students,” said MCC President Johnette McKown. “Students actively participate in activities of academic excellence and real-world experiences that are invaluable connections between rigorous scholarship and the cutting-edge practicalities of aerospace. Students like Lloyd Alcorn represent both institutions well and are prepared to be the leaders of tomorrow.” 

Alcorn said he was “both daunted and thrilled” by the project’s high standards, but added that he is eager to contribute his best effort representing MCC and Tarleton State. “Working alongside some of the brightest minds in the world and having supportive peers makes this opportunity seem like a dream come true.”

Benson, President of Tarleton State’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers student chapter, echoed Alcorn’s sentiments.

“I look forward to representing the Mayfield College of Engineering at such an exciting event. I think the aspect that excites me most is the idea that we’re going to be able to spend time developing our mission with both NASA and Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) engineers. Having access to their knowledge and experience is not something you get every day. “

Like his teammates, Wells is eager to begin the trek, plus he sees the practical side of working with various aerospace agencies. “I’m looking forward to the incredible experience that’s ahead of me. This will help build my knowledge base in the areas of an exciting future.” 

After spending seven weeks in New Mexico and a week at the NASA Kennedy Space Center, students in the program will return to their universities for workshops and exercises. Experts on small satellites will offer research support and feedback on improving proposals and increasing the teams’ potential of being chosen to fly a real-world mission. CSLI and UNP will make their selections for future flights in 2025.

Final presentations will take place in Albuquerque in July. The Tarleton State/MCC team also plans to attend the Small Satellite Conference, held at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, in early August. 

The program covers travel expenses, enabling faculty and students to formulate teams without straining university resources. 

Invited universities must propose a mission that can be flown in a satellite as small as 10 cm (3.9 inches) by 10 cm housing an experiment inside the cube frame, electronics for the experiment and a navigation system. NASA wants each team to propose an experiment related to a specific problem. “We’re not looking to immediately solve the problem, but to provide a pathway to research the problem to understand it better and get closer to a solution,” Dr. Landaeta said. 

Tarleton State’s team proposal combines with last year’s proposed specialized camera, centered on national defense. Additionally, the project could foreshadow new academic programs — minors in aerospace and space systems engineering — and has an outreach component. 

“There are many critical aspects in a project of this magnitude, so there’s a lot of work to do, we are thankful for the opportunity that NASA/AFRL has provided us” Dr. Landaeta said. “it’s an exciting time for our students and the University.”

CSLI is one of several ways NASA is attracting students to STEM disciplines. It strengthens NASA’s and the nation’s future workforce and develops innovative technology partnerships among NASA, U.S. industry, and other sectors for the benefit of agency programs and projects.

For more information about NASA’s CSLI, visit

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