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A Novel Brainstorming Pedagogy to Mobilize Pico/Nano/Micro-Satellite (PNMSat) Engineering Research and Education in India

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Aerospace Division Technical Session 1

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Sharanabasaweshwara Asundi Tuskegee University

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Sharanabasaweshwara Asundi, a native of INDIA, is a Ph.D. from University of Florida working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace Science Engineering at Tuskegee University (TU). Currently, he is engaged in several teaching and research activities, largely focused around initiating a Small Satellite Program at Tuskegee University. As part of the effort, he has engaged in research collaboration with NASA Goddard as a Science Collaborator. Based on preliminary research conducted at NASA, Dr. Asundi has been awarded grants by the U.S. Air Force and National Science Foundation to set up a Magnet Coil Test Facility and research Magnetic Mapping of Pico/Nano/Micro-Satellites. Through an award from Rockwell Collins, Dr. Asundi has set up an Amateur Radio Station at TU to track satellites. Dr. Asundi teaches courses in Orbital Mechanics, Automatic Flight Controls, Satellite Design, among others. He is actively engaged in collaboration with academic institutions in India. As part of invited visits, Dr. Asundi has conducted several short courses and workshops in Systems Engineering Based Design of PNMSats.

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Abstract The article describes the outcome of an initiative to truly educate the youth in India and motivate them to seek diverse careers and fulfilling livelihoods by engaging them in pico/nano/micro-satellite (PNMSat) design engineering. A systems pedagogy, derived out of a systems engineering approach developed for the design and development of PNMSat/CubeSat missions, is used to teach a comprehensive course in PNMSat design engineering. A novel approach adopted for the course involves brainstorming the participants to conceive a PNMSat payload and teach the PNMSat bus design to accommodate the conceived payload. The approach and the comprehensive treatment of a course in satellite design are the first of their kind in India; particularly so in the field of small satellite design engineering. The article describes in detail the course contents, the novel approach and the results of the course assessments from three offerings – Summer 2015, Summer 2016 and Summer 2017. The article presents the results of surveys conducted to assess the impact on the participants’ awareness in PNMSat engineering, motivation to pursue diverse careers and fulfilling livelihoods. Its been observed that engineering institutions in India are keen to initiate a PNMSat program but have struggled to do so due to the lack of a systematic approach. The article provides an insight into addressing this problem and initiating a PNMSat program at an engineering institutions in India.

Keywords: Systems Pedagogy, PNMSat/CubeSat Mission/Program, Engineering Education in India, Diverse Engineering Careers, Space Systems Engineering/ Pedagogy

Summary There is a growing need in India to educate the youth, rather than make them mere literates, as engineers, doctors, scientists, and most importantly, responsible citizens (Brown, Lauder, & Ashton, 2010; Mohanty & Dash, 2016; Hindu, 2009). In particular, there is a growing need for educated aerospace engineers who can compliment the untiring efforts of organizations like the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Over the decades, ISRO has established itself as a premiere space organization and enabled India to be one of the elite nations to explore the frontiers of Mars and other space missions (Arunan & Satish, 2015; Lele, 2014; Bhattacharjee, 2016; Times, 2016). However, the support system to enable ISRO in maintaining its superior standards and replenish its aging workforce is limited. In contrast to the capabilities and achievements of ISRO, the engineering academia in India has played little or no role to supplement its efforts. In the past 2 decades, the information technology (IT) industry has had a paradigm changing impact on the engineering careers in India. Although, the engineering education system in India has accommodated an unprecedented diversity with regards to its disciplines, the careers sought by graduates have largely revolved around the IT sector (Gupta & Dewanga, 2012). In an effort to find a high paying job, budding engineers have failed to seek fulfilling careers, enrich their livelihoods and contribute towards the nation. For the last three summers (2015, 2016, 2017), the author has been visiting academic institutions across India to conduct courses, workshops, and awareness programs in the field of pico/nano/micro-satellite (PNMSat) engineering. The underlying intent of these visits has largely been to educate the youth and motivate individuals, particularly women, to seek diverse careers. The larger vision of this engagement has been to initiate PNMSat programs at these institutions and motivate research activities in all disciplines of engineering. This article describes a novel approach used to conduct a short course, “Satellite Design”, and assesses its impact through results from a survey. The novelty of the approach was to brainstorm a potential PNMSat payload among the participants and teach PNMSat design engineering to accommodate such a payload. The approach and the relatively comprehensive treatment of PNMSat engineering may be the first of its kind in engineering education in India and particularly so in the field of satellite engineering. The course was first offered at PES University (University, 2016) in Summer ‘15 (Station, 2015, June) and the participants included students, research associates, faculty and space enthusiasts from across India. Based on the participants’ feedback, the course was improved and offered again in Summer ‘16 and Summer ‘17. A distinguishing feature of the Summer ’16 and ‘17 offerings was the use of a classroom satellite kit from EyasSat (Barnhart et al., 2005, November; Burditt, 2016). As part of this article, insights into these offerings, their impact on the participants, attitude towards their career and the general awareness in satellite design are presented.

Course Agenda and Purpose The overarching goal of the course has been to introduce PNMSat/CubeSat (Specification, 2014; Heidt et al., 2000; Schaffner & Puig-Suari, 2002) mission design in a systems engineering framework and foster leadership development among participants. The objectives of the course broadly catered towards – (i) Introducing Systems Engineering for PNMSats, (ii) Engage students in the design of a PNMSat with a novel payload and (iii) Foster leadership and team development through learning stages. The course agenda consisted of 3 phases and the following outcomes were sought for assessing the success of the course. 1. Demonstrate a basic understanding of PNMSats and their purpose. 2. Demonstrate an understanding of systems engineering and its need for the design/development of PNMSats. 3. Envision a project life cycle of a PNMSat mission and plan to be successful. 4. Demonstrate an understanding of the various subsystems of a satellite system. 5. Demonstrate an understanding of the role of leadership in team building and executing successful missions. 6. Demonstrate an understanding of the learning stages and its implication for PNMSat missions. A. Phase I (Week 1) The focus of Phase I was to instill a sense of team among the participants and get an insight into the anatomy of PNMSats. The agenda for Phase I facilitated answers for: 1. Why am I attending this course? 2. What are PNMSats and are they really different from conventional/traditional satellites? 3. What is systems engineering relevant to this course? 4. What does it entail to design, develop and launch a PNMSat? B. Phase II (Week 2) The focus of Phase II was to provide an overview of the anatomy of satellites and facilitate the participants to seek answers to the following questions: 1. What are the constituents of a PNMSat? 2. What is the role of these subsystems of a PNMSat? a. Command & Data Handling System b. Electrical Power System c. Telemetry, Telecommand & Communication System d. Attitude Determination and Control System e. Orbit Design, Control and Ground Tracking System f. Structural and Thermal System g. Payload System 3. How do these subsystems integrate into a PNMSat? 4. How do I ensure my PNMSat will achieve its goal? 5. How do I launch my PNMSat if I manage to build it? 6. What do I do once the satellite is launched and executed its intended goal? C. Phase III (Week 3 & 4) The focus of Phase III was to go through a PNMSat design exercise. The participants were divided into teams and were guided to go through a project life cycle for designing a PNMSat. The participants envisioned a PNMSat mission, captured the vision as a mission definition and went through a systems engineering process to design a PNMSat. The teams would use basic physics, mathematics and computer-based tools to achieve the goal.

3. Systems Pedagogy & Course Implementation The course was planned and implemented with a systems pedagogy, largely based on the CubeSat Systems Engineering Approach (Asundi, 2011, Asundi, 2013) developed by the corresponding author as part of his research and involvement in a pico-satellite mission at University of Florida. The core of the systems pedagogy is to translate a space mission idea/concept/payload into basic building blocks. These basic building blocks and their design are the constituents of the course. A day-to-day breakdown of the course activities is captured in Table 1. As part of week 1, two days were dedicated to providing an overview of relevant Orbital Mechanics concepts, methods and mathematics. One day of week 1 was dedicated to providing and overview of CubeSat systems engineering approach (Asundi, 2011, Asundi, 2013). The remainder of week 1 was utilized to provide an overview of the subsystems of a PNMSat. As part of hands on activity for week 1, participants were introduced to AGI’s Systems Tool Kit (Kit, 2016), a software used for creating various orbit scenarios for space missions. A significant motivation and objective of the course was to brainstorm participants to conceive novel space payloads. As part of week 2, 2-3 days were dedicated to brainstorming and through consensus, a novel payload was identified for the remainder of the course. The systems engineering approach, subsystem design and the payload design were discussed in the context of the conceived payload. The participants were divided into teams and each team was tasked with designing a subsystem required to support the payload.

7. Conclusion and Future Work Since the advent of PNMSats, particularly of the CubeSat form factor, academic institutions in India have shown keen interest in initiating a PNMSat mission/program. Such efforts have had limited success due to the lack of resources and the absence of a pedagogical approach to initiating a program. Its been observed that the systems pedagogy adopted to teach satellite design has resulted in novel payload ideas for a potential PNMSat mission and a means to initiate a PNMSat program. The brainstorming feature, which is novel for such a course and has resulted in potential payloads, has given the participants a sense of personal connection and enabled them to be more intentional. Faculty and student participants of the course have had the opportunity to explore the payload and through systems engineering, a preliminary to mid-level design of the various subsystems has been accomplished. It is important to reiterate here that this course may be the first of its kind in India to offer a comprehensive treatment of small satellite design engineering in a single classroom setup. As a result of the course offering, an international collaboration is established between Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, USA) and PES University (Bengaluru, INDIA). As part of the collaboration, the results of a systems engineering study have been submitted (for publishing) to the proceedings of a conference (AIAA SPACE and IAC). A systems engineering study of the payload conceived during the second offering is being prepared for publishing as well. As part of the future work, the author is streamlining the course for an online offering with an on-site technician/instructor facilitating the lab sessions. It was observed during the course offering that although there are a host of references for preparing the course material, a single textbook, which will enable the participants to be focused, may be required. The author is preparing such a textbook reference, particularly focused on PNMSat design engineering through the CubeSat systems engineering framework (Asundi, 2011, Asundi, 2013). As part of the future efforts, the author is working towards publish this textbook reference through this medium.

Asundi, S. (2018, June), A Novel Brainstorming Pedagogy to Mobilize Pico/Nano/Micro-Satellite (PNMSat) Engineering Research and Education in India Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah.

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