It's Your Business: New base for space missions

It's Your Business: New base for space missions

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of CU Aerospace. Its ongoing mission: to develop new aerospace technologies and commercialize and distribute them, to boldly go where no downtown Champaign business has gone before.

CU Aerospace, a technology company for the Space Age, moved to new offices on the fifth floor of the M2 building in downtown Champaign a month ago.

Founded in 1998 by six people with ties to the Department of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at the University of Illinois, CU Aerospace taps some of the brightest engineering minds to develop new products for space flight and software for those of us here on Earth.

When CU Aerospace began reaching for the stars in 1998, it operated out of offices on Wright Street extended in Urbana. From there, it moved to the UI incubator in the Research Park and later another Research Park site before splashing down in its current digs in the M2 building.

President David Carroll said CU Aerospace has 18 employees.

Among the company's achievements is a new propulsion unit for CubeSat, a miniaturized satellite for space research made of cubes, first developed at Stanford University and utilized by universities around the world.

CubeSat spacecraft, about the size of a bread box, orbit at roughly 200 miles above the Earth.

"A 10 cm cube can pack a lot of potential technology, if you can power it," Carroll said. "The power comes from solar panels."

CU Aerospace employees developed, built, tested and delivered a propulsion unit to effectively alter the satellite's orbit in space.

Carroll's dream of seeing some of his products at work in space will come true later this year when the Air Force begins using his propulsion system for some of its space missions.

"We delivered eight of them to the Air Force in 2014," he said.

The Champaign firm also worked with the University of Illinois to create something called a "solar sail" for CubeSat satellites. Solar sails use radiation pressure (also called solar pressure) from stars to push an object in space like wind in a sail can push a boat on water.

"We are looking for a launch sometime in 2017," he said.

Another crown jewel of the CU Aerospace empire are VascTech fibers, which are high-strength fibers that look like fishing line that can be used by 3-D printers.

CU Aerospace has also developed two popular software products called the BLAZE Multiphysics suite and the THERMOSYS 4 Toolbox.

Merger for schools

Tricoci University of Beauty Culture has merged with Concept College of Cosmetology locations in Danville and Urbana, along with another beauty school in Bloomington, Ind.

"We are very excited about merging with these schools. We have as much to learn from them as they do from us," said Tricoci University of Beauty Culture chief executive officer Ross Bravo. "Together, we'll be able to continue to raise the bar of what a beauty education should be."

The Danville and Urbana campuses will continue to offer the cosmetology program with plans to offer a teacher training program in the near future.

Bank converts charter

Hickory Point Bank has announced it has converted its charter from a federal savings bank to a state chartered bank, effective immediately.

"The new charter provides Hickory Point Bank even more ways to serve customers, and is more closely aligned with our business strategy," said Anthony G. Nestler, president and chief executive officer.

A state charter provides Hickory Point Bank with an opportunity to work with regulators who are familiar with the local marketplace.

The state charter also provides the bank with increased capacity for lending and the ability to expand its agricultural services business.

"While a state charter will allow us to be even more competitive, day-to-day operations will not materially change and customers will not be impacted," said Nestler.

New site for fitness

Jean Noellsch from The Paxton Record reports that Choose 2 Change Fitness Club is opening a second Gibson City location — known as Choose 2 Change Studios — on Monday at 510 W. Ninth St.

Co-owners Scott and Lesley Davis and Casey Powell made the decision to expand their business in May 2015. After agreeing to buy the former Pentecostal Church location by Memorial Day, the Davises have been working to remodel the property.

The couple first worked on the building's exterior and landscaping until the purchase was finalized in September, at which time interior remodeling began in earnest. Bright colors on the walls and selected ceiling tiles give a bright and cheery look to the space.

Scott Davis said the former sanctuary area on the building's west side sold them on the building, as it offers 2,200 square feet of open space. Taking out the church's stage and baptismal area were the hardest part of the remodeling, he said.

The first classes to use the space are a new offering for the business: multiple eight-week tumbling classes for children ages 3 years and up. Lesley Davis said tumbling is an activity that customers have asked for "since Day 1."

In addition to a large floor area covered in tumbling mats, a climbing wall will assist with core strength and balance.

Henson clothing line

The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics has launched a limited-edition "Lou Henson Collection" of apparel items honoring the winningest coach in Illini basketball history.

Through the assistance of the Collegiate Licensing Co., the university's exclusive licensing agent, the DIA has worked with sportswear company Cutter & Buck to produce a line of polo shirts, sweaters and vests.

The collection features the orange blazer logo and replica signature of Henson along with the Illinois Block I logo.

The orange blazer logo is the same mark that is displayed on the newly dedicated Lou Henson Court at the State Farm Center. It symbolizes the orange sport coat that Henson often wore during games.

At Henson's request, the majority of university proceeds from the sale of the Lou Henson Collection will be donated to the Orange Krush Foundation.

The Lou Henson Collection is available for sale in Champaign-Urbana at Gameday Spirit Fan Store, the Illini Union Bookstore and TIS Bookstore.

Book shop extends hours

The Jane Addams Book Shop, 208 N. Neil St., C, has extended its Monday hours.

The shop is now open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday.

Other hours are noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Organizations sought

In 2012, Mike Williams Plumbing launched an annual contest in which Facebook visitors vote for their favorite community-focused organization.

The community chooses the winners by going to the Mike Williams Plumbing Facebook page and "liking" the logo of their favorite organization.

The organization that receives the most votes during the designated period wins a $1,000 donation.

December 2015 concluded the third year of the Mike Williams donation contest, bringing the company's total donation amount through this program to $37,000.

Community organizations that would like to participate in the 2016 donation contest should email the following information to organization name, address, phone number, website, contact name, a jpeg of the organization's logo and up to five sentences why someone should vote for the organization.

Contact Tim Mitchell at 217-351-5366; by email at; or by regular mail at The News-Gazette, c/o It's Your Business column, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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