According to Weatherwax, by understanding this connection, researchers may be able to form a better understanding of what happens to astronauts when they are in space. The research could also provide further insight into the sun, other planets and exotic environments such as black holes, he said.
Weatherwax said he is not certain where the satellite will be placed once it is in space.
"Our orbit hasn't been defined yet," he said, although he did say that the satellite would be placed somewhere in the thunderstorm regions.
The CubeSat mission, as it is being called, is not the only atmospheric research students at Siena have been working on over the past year. According to Weatherwax, students have also been involved in another project as part of a collaboration with Cornell, MIT and Dartmouth that involves a passive radar studying the Earth's atmosphere.
"We're part of a group that's studying the upper atmosphere," he said. "In the last few years, there's been a big focus on student research, and we're drawing on that from here."
That ongoing atmospheric research was a key component of the college's success in obtaining the grant to build and launch Firefly.
Weatherwax said students will be involved in the mission every step of the way, including design, building, testing, launching and eventually analyzing data.
"From freshmen to seniors, students will be able to work on the project. It will be really nice for the sophomores. They will be able to see the whole thing through," said Weatherwax.
For students who do not have a background in physics, there are still opportunities to get involved. A student in art class created the official patch that was designed for the Firefly mission, Weatherwax said.""