Andrew with fellow members of the UB Nanosat team.

Andrew’s Bio

  • Major: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Hometown: Lancaster, New York

Talk about your “Wow!” moments.

For UB Presidential scholar Andrew Dianetti, standing on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque for the two-year review of his satellite project was just one of many surreal experiences in his time at UB.

Andrew’s journey started with a visit to UB a few years before. At a Discovery Day event, he got to talk to Dr. John Crassidis, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and recipient of the 2012 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Mechanics and Control of Flight Award. Dr. Crassidis has worked on several NASA projects and is a world-renowned leader in his field.

“Everything he was talking about was exactly what I wanted to be doing,” Andrew says. “And I was more impressed by the attention I was getting and the program here than really any other school I visited.”

Fly me to the moon

Andrew’s dream is to work in satellite space flight, so in a few years when you look up at the glimmers of space craft in the night, you may well be seeing his work. He’s particularly interested in exploration-class missions, like the Mars missions, manned space flight and lunar missions.

But for right now, there’s GLADOS.

“I could have never imagined five years ago that I’d be working on something like this. I’ve enjoyed every minute that I’ve been here.”

Portal to the stars

After joining UB’s SEDS club—Students for the Exploration and Development of Space—Andrew also became part of the UB Nanosatellite program (Nanosat), formed by several SEDS members. Building on some of Dr. Crassidis’ research, they developed a proposal to design and build a shoebox-sized satellite they called GLADOS, for Glint Analyzing Data Observation Satellite.

GLADOS would use two cameras to detect reflected light from space debris left over from earlier space missions, with the goal of helping current space craft and satellites steer clear of it.

The team submitted its proposal to the University Nanosat Program (UNP) competition, a United States Air Force- and AIAA-sponsored competition* that helps train future space professionals through two-year design and fabrication projects. UB Nanosat has since gone through important UNP reviews—some of them 14 hours long—at UB, Kirtland AFB and industry conferences on the way to what the students hope will be an ultimate first-place win and an Air Force launch.

Andrew at the Kennedy Space Center on Florida

Andrew and UB Nanosat Chief Engineer Nikita Butakov work on the satellite.

Those Air Force reviews have been key in advancing the Nanosat students in the careers of their dreams, too. “A lot of big-name space companies—Orbital Sciences; Northrop Grumman; SpaceX—are actively recruiting at Air Force satellite reviews,” Andrew says. “They really want to hire students that have gone through the University Nanosat program. I know there are lots of people that have been part of it and then gotten hired and now are coming back to recruit us.”

Fame and good fortune

The Nanosat team also submitted the GLADOS proposal to NASA—and was accepted for a sure launch in NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, provided they supply a working machine when tapped by NASA for launch.

They even beat out internal NASA proposals for the launch initiative.

The NASA story made the local news, and Andrew came back from class one day to find a cluster of news media waiting in his lab to talk to him. Judging by the response he got from family and friends, nearly everyone he knew saw him on TV that night.

Andrew at the Kennedy Space Center on Florida

Andrew visits space shuttle Atlantis on the pad prior to the launch of the STS-135 mission.

UB: To infinity and beyond

At UB, Andrew has gotten not only superior scientific and engineering experience, but leadership, time management and teamwork skills, too—critical talents for his professional future. And he’s already attracted serious attention: He’s gotten two product engineering internships with Moog Inc. Space and Defense Group and one at NASA Glenn Research Center. He was also accepted by every graduate school he applied to.

Money had a lot to do with choosing UB, he says. “But I looked pretty much everywhere, into all the nationally ranked schools. When it came down to it, not only was it significantly more affordable to go here, but I was more impressed with the program here.”

On top of everything else, Andrew served as president of SEDS for two years and project manager of GLADOS in his senior year, and was an Honors scholar to boot. And just to be sure he would never sleep at college again, he also chaired SpaceVision 2012, the nation’s largest student-run conference on space exploration. SpaceVision drew about 350 attendees to Buffalo and featured the directors of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Kennedy Space Center and Langley Research Center, as well as two astronauts, NASA’s associate administrator and leaders in the private sector.

Great minds think alike

Andrew credits the members of the UB community with everything he’s learned and gotten to do as an undergraduate here. “The people that I’ve met here have been outstanding,” he adds. “What got me drawn into this and eventually into doing THIS was the motivation and the enthusiasm of everybody that’s around here.”

*The University Nanosat Program is jointly administered by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Space Development and Test Wing and the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate’s Spacecraft Technology division.

Last updated: March 13, 2014 11:10 am EST