Developing Nano-Satellites

cad glados

During my undergraduate studies at SUNY Buffalo I got involved with a group of students designing a satellite, as part of the Air Force Research Lab’s University Nanosatellite Program.  Our 50+ student organization aimed to solve critical issues in space situational awareness. Due to the growing congestion of space, the probability of costly collisions between satellites and manned space vehicles has grown substantially. The nation’s most recent space surveillance satellite cost approximately $100M to design and manufacture. We aim to reduce costs by demonstrating the feasibility of using nanosatellite network.

When I joined the team I helped designing the optical sub-system. I conducted trade studies examining various sensors, spectrometers, and lenses. I derived sub-system requirements. I experimentally characterized sensor performance. And I gave an oral presentation of the the results to industrial and governmental reviewers.

Several months later I took on the role of Chief Engineer. While leading the program, I made both technical and managerial improvements. I was responsible for overseeing the projects of 17 independent study students. With our encouragement several of these first-year students applied for and were awarded summer internships at NASA facilities. During the summer, we worked with Buffalo City Honors schools to establish a summer internship for underrepresented High School students. And during the school year we gave presentations at local schools to help increase female and minority participation in the STEM fields. I found mentorship so rewarding!

While working on the satellite I had several opportunities to present our work at conferences and workshops. In Summer 2012 I attended the Small Satellite Conference in Utah, where our Prototype-Qualification Review was taking place, and several months later presented at the 2012 SpaceVision Conference, an annual student-run event organized by Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. I also attended the Interplanetary Cubesat Workshop at Cornell University, with the goal of increasing industrial awareness about our program. Networking with professional scientists and developing industrial partnerships with companies such as Moog Inc. and Orbital Sciences Corp., was a great experience. During my senior year I further developed my technical writing skills when I worked with our PI in co-authoring a grant proposal to secure $165,000 in additional funding for the program.