An Overview of 
The Student Satellite Project 

The Student Satellite Project (SSP) at the University of Arizona was initiated on November 7, 1996, by Department of Physics Professor K.C. Hsieh and Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Professors Wayne Chen and Ernie Fasse. The initiators felt that the University of Arizona had all the right ingredients to support such an endeavor including a strong research program in space-related sciences and the engineering resources to make it happen.

Shortly after this genesis, a group of faculty met to discuss how to cradle the development of a satellite project, which would quickly become student-driven and designed. It was decided that an announcement of opportunity (AO) similar to an AO in a traditional spacecraft mission would be issued on February 5, 1997, and students would be invited to propose how they would utilize such an opportunity.

In order to provide some design constraint for this process, and also to ensure the best possibility of success for the eventual mission, the launch opportunity of the Small Shuttle Payloads Project Office Hitchhiker Ejection System (HES) was chosen from the outset. The HES is an emerging capability on the Space Shuttle for ejecting a payload from a Get Away Special (GAS) canister, placing it into an orbit similar to the Space Shuttle's. Utilization of the HES has several advantages. One of the primary reasons for choosing it was for its resultant "standard" orbit of 28.5 degrees to 57 degrees inclination and an orbital altitude ranging from 185km to 400km. Also, with the upcoming construction of the International Space Station (ISS), there are currently 34 Shuttle missions between December 1998 and January 2003 to the ISS orbit of 407km and 51.6( inclination. The availability of launch opportunities coupled with the HES design constraints mandated by NASA provided for a nice set of constraints for designing a spacecraft mission. Some might be quick to point out the disadvantages of HES, however, which include the 1-year orbital lifetime, and the requirement to design for launch from a man-rated vehicle.

With these constraints in mind, over 80 volunteer student respondents were assembled into 7 teams, comprising 6 design subsystems: Science, Mechanical Structures and Analysis (MSA), Power Generation and Distribution (PGD), Data and Command Handling (DCH), Guidance Navigation and Control (GNC) and Tracking Telemetry and Command (TTC). The student teams were tasked with finding a faculty advisor and submitting a "Letter of Intent to Propose" one month later. Full proposals would follow on April 14, 1997. An Evaluation and Selection Panel (ESP) was assembled from distinguished individuals of the University and local industry to evaluate the proposals. They announced the selected proposal ideas on April 28th, and the Student Satellite Project was formally organized on May 8, 1997.

Since then the student teams have enthusiastically pushed the project ahead. The designs of the (now) 7 subsystems have progressed and matured both as independent units and as part of an overall, coherent system. The progress of these designs was validated on November 22, 1997 at a Conceptual Design Review before the members of the ESP, and now advances towards a Preliminary Design Review in early 1999. Student involvement in the project has continued at a high level of approximately 60 to 85 students - even during the summer - as eager recruits have replaced the graduating members of SSP, and students have defended graduate theses and conducted "capstone" senior design projects within the context of their involvement in the project.

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January 27, 2000
All contents copyright 1999. All rights reserved.