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Sonoma State students build, deploy satellite

Orbiting about 400 miles over your head is a tiny box that could revolutionize the way we think about satellites.

Designed and built in part by students at Sonoma State University, the "T-LogoQube" may be the smallest functioning satellite ever put in space; it's certainly among the cheapest. It is also, in all probability, the only satellite ever launched that can be reprogrammed in flight, opening a new era of flexibility for hardware in orbit.

"The software is more sophisticated than any satellite I've ever worked on, even the most expensive ones," said retired UC Berkeley research physicist and Petaluma resident Garrett Jernigan, who helped create the SSU program.

The satellite is tiny, just 5-by-5-by-15 centimeters, or about the size of a TV remote control. Inside is a tiny radio and a sensor that reads the earth's magnetic field.

The satellite passes over Sonoma County twice a day, around noon and midnight, giving the students two chances a day to communicate with it. The satellite sends data about its position and condition; the students send up instructions to pivot, spin, or do other basic tricks by using coils of wire that react to the magnetic field and push the satellite around in orbit.

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