University of Michigan sends satellite into space

Orbiting 250 miles above the Earth is the International Space Station, and now, a little piece of Michigan is up there with it.

"Most satellites are not this small, most satellites are gigantic," Aaron Ridley, professor at the University of Michigan, says.

But good things come in small packages, and when it comes to learning about the weather in the least explored layer of the atmosphere, small is all you need.

"They're going to tell us a lot about what's actually happening in the atmosphere and help us learn about the upper layer of the atmosphere," he says.

The University of Michigan, along with Stanford and Colorado have been working for five years with European space team to develop these small satellites with the goal of learning more about the weather 125 to 250 miles up in the atmosphere.

"If there is a big intensification of the aurora . . .  we have no idea what will actually happen," he says.

So Aaron and his team want to figure out what is going to happen and their little satellites are watching out, acting as bodyguards for the bigger and more expensive satellites. By learning the weather influences, they hope they can prevent expensive pieces from getting hit by space junk

"If you have a satellite that you built and it costs 500 million dollars to put into space, you don't want it to be destroyed by, say, a wrench that an astronaut lost," he says.

And like a painter who signs his work, the U of M team had a little fun before their project went into orbit.

"We have a list of all the students who worked on the satellites actually written on the side of the satellite," he says.

The U of M satellites are currently still inside the International Space Station right now, but when they are released into orbit they will be controlled from Ann Arbor.