BYU Commercial Space Club tackles challenges from NASA with hopes of receiving funding

The commercial space club collaborates with students from all different majors to write project proposals with the hopes of being endorsed by NASA. (Hannah Miner)

The commercial space club on campus is gathering students from a variety of disciplines to collaborate and use their skills to write proposals for NASA.

This new academic association was officially organized in early 2020 and is sponsored by the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

Senior mechanical engineering student and president of the club Jaxon Jones explained that the purpose of the club is for students to gain experience in learning how to write grant proposals. If those proposals are accepted, the teams will then execute those plans for NASA with the provided funds and resources.

“The experiences students have writing successful proposals in this association have the potential to be more real-world than many classes or research labs offered at a university,” Jones said.

Last Winter Semester, students in the club divided into two teams to write proposals for NASA’s Johnson branch of Student Payload Opportunity with Citizen Science for the opportunity to receive a $20,000 grant to bring their experiment to life and be sent to the International Space Station.

Despite the interruption of plans because of COVID-19, the teams continued to communicate and work on their proposals. They are finalizing their proposals to be submitted in the coming weeks.

In the club’s opening meeting, member Justin Tackett said club members plan to take on a variety of proposals with multiple teams this semester. The teams will be tackling the ideas from the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts — Academic Linkage branch of NASA and will cover different categories, such as durable low-mass lunar surface habitats, a Venus flyby mission or a human mission to Ceres.

With their goals in mind, Tackett said time spent in the club is a team effort and the objective is to help students at whatever level improve their skills and apply them to real projects. “This is a good experience to learn all of the steps in between the initial idea of a proposal and execution and to then present it at a scientific conference.”

Club board member Aaron Chan said they invite all majors to join. “We want people from all different backgrounds.”

The experience the club facilitates is collaborative and requires different perspectives and skills. Jones asked students to bring “their strengths and a willingness to learn.”

The club looks to the prospective future opportunities in space and hopes to eventually consider the possibilities of business in space and the possibilities that entails. “It’s an awesome experience and it’s a lot of potential this club has for the future,” Jones said.

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