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Student Design, Development, And Operations Of Small Satellites At The United States Air Force Academy

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Design and Manufacturing Experiences II

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1128.1 - 9.1128.12

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Paper Authors

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David Richie

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Timothy Lawrence

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Jerry Sellers

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Kenneth Siegenthaler

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

Session 3202

Student Design, Development and Operations of Small Satellites at the United States Air Force Academy

Kenneth E. Siegenthaler, Jerry J. Sellers, David J. Richie, and Timothy J. Lawrence

Department of Astronautics United States Air Force Academy


The FalconSAT program is a unique, dynamic small-satellite research program that serves as a capstone course for Astronautical Engineering majors at the United States Air Force Academy. The goal of the program is to give students the opportunity to “learn space by doing space.” The program results in a satellite launched into space every two to three years. It is conducted in the same manner required of any civilian company delivering a satellite for a NASA/Air Force launch. In addition to the design and construction of the satellites, students must meet all of the Department of Defense (DoD) milestones, including preparing and briefing the Alternative Systems Review (ASR), Preliminary Design Review (PDR), Critical Design Review (CDR), and Product Acceptance Demonstration (PAD). These reviews are given to and evaluated by members of the civilian aerospace community and scientists and engineers from U.S. Air Force space organizations outside of the Academy. Each student is required to become familiar with the functioning of the payload and all of the subsystems. The average student participates in design, clean-room construction, shake and bake-out testing, ground station operations, program management, and presents review briefings during the two-semester course. The students also prepare and brief the proposed experimental payload briefings to the DoD Space Experiments Review Board (SERB), competing on a level playing field with all of the other civilian and military proposals. This paper discusses the current status of the FalconSAT program, the challenges of an almost complete turnover of personnel every year, and the dynamics of managing the design, construction, and flying of a satellite every two to three years by a completely student team. Since this program is conducted in the same manner as a typical science and engineering program, students from other academic departments also participate in the program. The program has been augmented by the participation of students from six different academic departments. The addition of this multidisciplinary real-world atmosphere adds an extra dimension of realism to the program. This paper discusses the various solutions the Academy has devised to address the many challenges of conducting a successful program in a highly constrained undergraduate environment. “Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Richie, D., & Lawrence, T., & Sellers, J., & Siegenthaler, K. (2004, June), Student Design, Development, And Operations Of Small Satellites At The United States Air Force Academy Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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