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Nasa Senior Design: Systems Engineering And Reusable Avionics

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Design with External Clients

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.903.1 - 15.903.15



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Paper Authors

author page

James Conrad University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

NASA Senior Design: Systems Engineering and Reusable Avionics


One concept for future space flights is to construct building blocks for a wide variety of avionics systems. Once a unit has served its original purpose, it can be removed from the original vehicle and reused in a similar or dissimilar function, depending on the function blocks the unit contains. For example: Once a lunar lander has reached the moon’s surface, an engine controller for the Lunar Decent Module would be removed and used for a lunar rover motor control unit or for a Environmental Control Unit for a Lunar Habitat.

This senior design project included the investigation of a wide range of functions of space vehicles and possible uses. Specifically, this includes:

≠ Determining and specifying the basic functioning blocks of space vehicles. ≠ Building and demonstrating a concept model. ≠ Showing high reliability is maintained.

The specific implementation of this senior design project included a large project team made up of Systems, Electrical, Computer, and Mechanical Engineers/Technologists. The efforts were made up of several sub-groups that each worked on a part of the entire project. The large size and complexity made this project one of the more difficult to manage and advise. Typical projects only have 3-4 students, but this project had 10 students from five different disciplines.

This paper describes the difference of this large project compared to typical projects, and the challenges encountered. It also describes how the systems engineering approach was successfully implemented so that the students were able to meet nearly all of the project requirements.

NASA Faculty Fellow Program

In early 2009, NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) solicited involvement for a summer 2009 higher education opportunity for faculty. The purpose of their program was to prepare faculty to enable their students to complete senior design projects with the potential for contribution to NASA ESMD objectives. The goal of this program was to select five faculty who would work for several weeks at a NASA field center on a specific ESMD project and incorporate the ESMD project into an existing senior design course or capstone course at their university in the 2009/2010 academic year. The course could have all students involved in a single project, or allow a subset of the enrolled students to work on a project.

During the six weeks at the NASA center, faculty fellows worked closely with NASA engineers. The objective of this NASA site assignment was so the faculty could gain extensive knowledge on the specific selected NASA project, including the requirements, interfaces and issues

Conrad, J. (2010, June), Nasa Senior Design: Systems Engineering And Reusable Avionics Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16787

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