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Spacecraft Design, Development and Operations in Just Five Hours per Week: Experience from the USAF Academy FalconSAT Program

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.887.1 - 6.887.9

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Paper Authors

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Jerry Sellers

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Douglas Bayley

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The paper describes overall experience and lessons learned from the USAF Academy’s small satellite research program—“FalconSAT”—and the challenges faced by undertaking serious space mission development in a highly-constrained undergraduate environment. The goal of the program is to give students the opportunity to “learn space by doing space.” Background on the program is first presented including successes and failures since the program’s inception. Discussion begins by focusing on specific curriculum changes made within the Academy Department of Astronautics over the last several years to enable students to have even 5 hours per week to devote to space mission development. The culmination of this curriculum is a capstone small satellite design course sequence. The processes within these courses will be described along with how the courses are organized to get the maximum amount of learning and effort out of the students given the limited class time available. Various aspects of the courses will be discussed such as the Design Review Process and how cooperation with other departments and organizations help to provide expertise and extra funding. Challenges associated with these courses and the associated project that the students are expected to complete are also discussed. How are student learning objectives and real world deadlines balanced? How is the problem of high student turn-around handled? The paper will discuss various solutions the Academy has evolved to address these challenges. The paper concludes with current program status and recent feedback from students involved in the project.

Sellers, J., & Bayley, D. (2001, June), Spacecraft Design, Development and Operations in Just Five Hours per Week: Experience from the USAF Academy FalconSAT Program Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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