Y plans step into space



    BYU students are launching their way to success and into NASA’s space shuttle with the construction of a soft X-ray telescope named GoldHelox.

    The GoldHelox telescope (“Gold” for the color of the sun and “Helox” for Helios Observations in X-rays) was dreamed up in 1988 by James Maxwell, a student in a BYU English 316 technical writing class.

    Eight years later, with the help of more than 200 students, examining the sun through a fully automated, soft X-ray telescope developed from an idea into a reality.

    “The GoldHelox instrument is highly advanced in several areas. First, it is designed to be launched on the Space Shuttle. This would be the first experiment from BYU to fly on the shuttle,” said Pete Roming, project manager and doctoral candidate in physics and astronomy.

    The telescope is a compact instrument that fits inside a NASA Get-Away-Special canister. Once in orbit, the astronauts will turn on the telescope, and it will track the sun and take several hundred pictures. When the pictures are completed, the GAS lid will close and shut down.

    Students from the colleges of physical and mathematical sciences and engineering designed and administered the project.

    Through NASA education and space science grants, GoldHelox came into existence. However, additional funding is needed for the completion of the project.

    “Approximately $100,000 is needed to finish the entire project. The project is currently stalled for want of approximately $15,000 to purchase the final hardware for the flight payload,” Roming said. “We are seeking these funds from the college while we pursue funding for the balance through the LDS Foundation, and from NASA, NSF and industry.” The project is expected to be finished in December and launched the next summer.

    “The project is very near completion. The telescope has been designed and a major portion has been built. There is still some manufacturing that remains to be completed as well as the majority of the testing,” said Maureen Hintz, assistant product manager and master’s candidate in physics.

    Because the GoldHelox is student-created and student-run, the primary goal of the project is the education of students, not only in technical skills, but in communication, writing and management.

    “This project gives the students opportunities unparalleled to any other experience in an academic setting,” Roming said. “This better prepares the students for industry or graduate school and helps furnish them with the skills that make them more marketable after graduation.”

    The secondary goal is the science.

    “Using the images obtained with the telescope, we hope to better solve the mechanisms behind solar flares, which have become a concern to the technological industry, particularly the satellite building and operating community,” Hintz said. “The University of Colorado and the Japanese Yohkoh Satellite group have expressed interest in collaborating with us to accomplish this goal.”

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email