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Proceedings Paper

Enhancing undergraduate education in aerospace engineering and planetary sciences at MIT through the development of a CubeSat mission
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Paper Abstract

CubeSats are a class of nanosatellites that conform to a standardized 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, 1 kg form factor. This miniaturization, along with a standardized deployment device for launch vehicles, allows CubeSats to be launched at low cost by sharing the trip to orbit with other spacecraft. Part of the original motivation for the CubeSat platform was also to allow university students to participate more easily in space technology development and to gain hands-on experience with flight hardware. The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics along with the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Studies (EAPS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently completed a three semester-long course that uses the development of a CubeSat-based science mission as its core teaching method. Serving as the capstone academic experience for undergraduates, the goal of this class is to design and build a CubeSat spacecraft that serves a relevant science function, such as the detection of exoplanets transiting nearby stars. This project-based approach gives students essential first hand insights into the challenges of balancing science requirements and engineering design. Students are organized into subsystem-specific teams that refine and negotiate requirements, explore the design trade space, perform modeling and simulation, manage interfaces, test subsystems, and finally integrate prototypes and flight hardware. In this work we outline the heritage of capstone design/build classes at MIT, describe the class format in greater detail, and give results on the ability to meet learning objectives using this pedagogical approach.

Paper Details

Date Published: 14 September 2011
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 8146, UV/Optical/IR Space Telescopes and Instruments: Innovative Technologies and Concepts V, 81460S (14 September 2011); doi: 10.1117/12.896130
Show Author Affiliations
Matthew W. Smith, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
David W. Miller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Sara Seager, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8146:
UV/Optical/IR Space Telescopes and Instruments: Innovative Technologies and Concepts V
Howard A. MacEwen; James B. Breckinridge, Editor(s)

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