The Minotaur I rocket launched Tuesday from a NASA facility in Virginia was carrying the Space Test Program Satellite-3 of the United States Air Force along with 28 other satellites. Coming to orbit with satellites built by big names in the science community is a small satellite built entirely by some high school students from Alexandria, Virginia.

The nano-satellite dubbed as the TJ3Sat tips the scale at three pounds and just measures 3.9 x 3.9 x 4.5 inches. It was built by youngsters from the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology. Fifty students constructed the small satellite through the duration of the program using smartphones that have built-in GPS receivers, sensors, high-resolution camera, and a fast processor. It took them seven years to finish the project. Orbital Sciences collaborated with the school and donated the amount needed to complete the project.

The TJ3Sat can receive text messages and transform the message to audio that can be broadcasted over different frequencies and languages across the globe.

"It used to be that kids growing up wanted to be an astronaut. I think we might be seeing kids saying, what they want to do is build a spacecraft. The idea here is that they really can do that," said Program Executive for Small Spacecraft Technology at NASA, Andrew Petro, in a statement.

The TJ3Sat is expected to transmit data from low-Earth orbit for about six months. It is equipped with mini solar panels that can help it stay in position for around two years.

The TJ3Sat launched with 10 other cube satellites aboard Minotaur I including those from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Ames Research Center, St. Louis University, University of Alabama Huntsville, University of Florida, University of Hawaii, University of Kentucky, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, University of New Mexico, and Vermont Technical College.

The cubesats were part of NASA projects called Launch Initiative and the Educational Launch of Nanosatellite Missions or ELaNa.

The advancements of the cubesat community are enabling an acceleration of flight-qualified technology that will ripple through the aerospace industry. Our future missions will be standing on the developments the cubesat community has enabled," said director of Advanced Exploration Systems Jason Crusan in a statement.

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