LAWRENCE, Kan. (KSNW) – If you build it, they will come.
“Yes, the pun works here. Sky’s the limit for cube satellites,” said Arno Prinsloo on Tuesday. “Maybe looking at the ozone or the big one we talk about is remote sensing. This is a huge category.”
Prinsloo got what he calls spectacular experience working on the KUbsat1 project at the University of Kansas while doing graduate work. The KUbesat team is now making a next-generation tiny satellite about the size of a loaf of bread, that works just like a large satellite.
Now Prinsloo is looking to start his own company, making them in Kansas.
“I’m an immigrant,” said Prinsloo. “And to me, this is kind of the definition of the American dream. You come here, you find something that you are passionate about, and you care about, and you push it to heights that you could never imagine.”
While Prinsloo hopes to sell tiny cube satellites in the next two years with his own company, he’s also very proud of the work that continues at the University of Kansas.
“Proud and excited. There’s just so many emotions, I can’t explain it,” said Prinsloo. “Being able to see them and grow like that. I guess I’m proud dad type thing.”
Cube satellite tech itself has been around for years. However, cube satellites are comparatively cheap compared to bigger, traditional satellites. They are becoming more popular, and demand is skyrocketing.
“I want to get in on the ground floor of producing them,” said Prinsloo.
The cube satellite team currently at KU is carrying on the tradition that started in 2017.
“Your typical satellite costs millions to billions of dollars,” said Brody Gatza, current project manager of KUbesat at the University of Kansas. “And cube sats, ours, costs about a hundred thousand dollars. So it’s orders of magnitude cheaper.”
Gatza explains the next-gen cube satellite being produced now will function just like an expensive, larger satellite. And those cube “sats” can be launched in an entire array at a much lower cost.
“Our cube sat has two particle detectors on it that were developed by the KU School of Physics,” said Gatza. “To do some research for cosmic rays as well as to do some calibration for some equipment in Greenland.”
Gatza says he wants to eventually work on rocket engine simulations after graduation. Prinsloo says there are so many applications for cube satellites the sky is truly the limit.
“I’m working with the innovation park,” said Prinsloo. “And the idea is to create innovation and tech in between, from Lawrence to Kansas City. And their whole goal is to help you get off the ground and get what you need to do to be successful while still being able to stay in Kansas. A lot of my PhD research focused on what is the right area for this.”
Prinsloo is currently working with a team to bring the tech here to the Sunflower State.
“A sort of personal point of drive for me is getting something off the ground,” said Prinsloo. “Kansas, it’s more collaboration-focused rather than I am just going to get further in my career. Collaboration is the foundation of innovation. And that is something I think you don’t find in many other places in the country other than the Midwest, and Kansas is ripe for that.”
Meanwhile, the KUebsat team at the University of Kansas is awaiting a launch window to put their tech into space.