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CubeSat: A Multidisciplinary Senior Design Project

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Capstone Design

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.343.1 - 24.343.17



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Paper Authors


Adam Kaplan California State University, Northridge

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Adam Kaplan received a BS degree in Computer Science and Engineering from UCLA in the year 2000, and worked in the burgeoning internet software industry for a year and a half before returning to UCLA for a Masters (2003) and PhD (2008) in Computer Science. Since 2008, Adam has lectured at UCLA, UCLA Extension, and California State University, Dominguez Hills, while also working as a software engineer for local startup businesses IEnteractive and Perceptive Development. In the year 2012, he joined California State University, Northridge as an Assistant Professor. His research interests include assistive technology for victims of acute aphasia, the evolving cost models of cloud services, and the development of power and cost-efficient embedded and mobile software.

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James Flynn California State University, Northridge

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James Flynn is a part time faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). He holds a B.S. (1977) degree in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Master of Fine Arts (1981) degree from Northwestern University. He is owner of a consulting firm specializing in electronics for television and film production. Currently, he is the system architect on a faculty-student team engaged in the development and construction of a CubeSat to be launched in 2015. He has also been active in developing education tools involving software defined radio (SDR).

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Sharlene Katz P.E. California State University, Northridge

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Sharlene Katz is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) where she has been for over 25 years. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with B.S. (1975), M.S. (1976), and Ph.D. (1986) degrees in Electrical Engineering. Currently, she is principle investigator on a faculty-student team engaged in the development and construction of a CubeSat to be launched in 2015. Her other areas of research interest have been in engineering education techniques, software defined radio, and neural networks. Dr. Katz is a licensed professional engineer in the state of California.

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CubeSat: A Multidisciplinary Senior Design ProjectAbstractEngineering and computer science programs often require a culminating senior design project.Several of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accreditationoutcomes are best demonstrated in the context of such a project. These include the ability todesign a system, process or component to meet desired needs and the ability to function on amultidisciplinary team. At XXXXX University (XXXX) engineering and computer sciencestudents are assigned to work on a group senior design project during their senior year. Thispaper describes a recent XXXX senior design project in which engineering (computer, electrical,and mechanical) and computer science students work on a multidisciplinary team to design, build,test, and eventually launch a CubeSat carrying a research experiment.A CubeSat is a miniature satellite (20 x 10 x 10 cm) capable of carrying an onboard experimentinto space. CubeSats are launched free of charge as part of government and commercial satellitelaunches around the world and have a potential lifetime of years, orbiting the earth every ninetyminutes. This project also extends to the design and construction of a telecommunicationsground station, complete with mission control, to command and control the CubeSat during itsmission and retrieve the valuable scientific data it will produce.The project offers a wealth of educational and technical opportunities ranging from projectmanagement, unique design challenges, rigorous constraints, extensive testing and the demandfor excellence in execution. Students must overcome daunting real-life problems to carry out amission that will have tangible consequences in future space missions. They must wrestle withthe scale of a project involving several subsystems which have to be brought together seamlesslyand where any failure threatens the mission. Student members have had to adopt the skills ofworking with project members outside their discipline, to communicate, coordinate andcooperate through meetings, reports and documentation. They have learned firsthand the reasonsfor requirements, timelines, interface control documents, power and thermal budgets and testplans.The fact that this is a real mission, not a simulation or class exercise, motivates students toexpand their knowledge, re-orient their thinking and refine their skills. They approach theirwork with pride knowing that this is something that literally the whole world will see. Thismotivation extends well beyond senior design. Lower level students are volunteering for thismulti-year project, taking back to the classrooms questions that have challenged them andsearching for the skills they now know they will need when it comes time for them to provethemselves to finish the design and put it in space.

Kaplan, A., & Flynn, J., & Katz, S. (2014, June), CubeSat: A Multidisciplinary Senior Design Project Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20234

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