We Have the Power to Help Revolutionize Space Travel

The I-79 High Technology Park in Fairmont, W.Va. The Mon Power Regional Headquarters can be seen behind the satellite dish on the left. The NASA complex is behind the satellite dish on the right.

April 17, 2019

Every few days a tiny satellite passes over Fairmont, W.Va. and beams data home to its birthplace, a NASA facility powered by FirstEnergy.

The STF-1 satellite, launched into orbit four months ago, was designed and built at the Jon McBride Testing and Research (JSTAR) laboratory, located in the same office park as Mon Power’s regional headquarters in Fairmont’s I-79 High Technology Park.

JSTAR develops and tests simulation software for NASA missions to reduce the threat of mission failures.

NASA chose to locate in Fairmont in part because of a substation Mon Power built when constructing its headquarters, providing reliable access to power. The Harrison Power Station is about 10 miles away.

The STF-1 satellite was the brainchild of researchers at JSTAR, who designed and built the satellite to evaluate their simulation technology, and demonstrate how simulation can increasingly miniaturize satellite technology.

In addition to their own simulation technology, researchers included instruments to research space weather and other experiments developed in association with West Virginia University. The onboard computer, solar panels, experiments and communications equipment all fit into a satellite about the size of a loaf of bread.

Fully assembled, STF-1 stands 14 inches tall and weighs about six pounds. Built in a clean room at JSTAR, the satellite is so small that measurement errors of less than a quarter millimeter were potentially catastrophic. To put that in perspective, an average grain of sand is a half millimeter, and the head of a pin is two millimeters.

Launched from New Zealand in December, STF-1 began beaming data home earlier this year.

Currently the JSTAR team is also supporting numerous other NASA missions, including NASA’s human space exploration mission to the moon and Mars, the James Webb Space Telescope, the Parker Solar Probe and the Deep Space Climate Observatory.

All from a facility that chose to locate in Fairmont, W.Va. because of FirstEnergy.