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Hardware Design and Analysis for a
12U Astronomy CubeSat


Charles Van Steenwyk
California Polytechnic State University

The proposed thesis investigates initial satellite design of a Student Space Telescope Network, which would entail a constellation of low-cost, high-performance astronomical observatories in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) to facilitate undergraduate student research. Astronomy satellites have largely been the domain of government agencies, but new technology developments and lower prices are opening the door for public institutions to design, build, and fly their own science missions. CubeSats have exploded in popularity, with the standardization reducing cost while providing hardware developers a consistent set of design requirements. Several missions have demonstrated that CubeSats are fully capable of astronomical missions, and have shown that the precise temperature and pointing control required are within reach of even a university-level team. ASTERIA, which launched in 2017, achieved high-precision attitude and thermal control for exoplanet observation, while SPARCs will use ultraviolet light to observe nearby M-dwarfs for exoplanets near the star’s habitable zone. Additionally, the BRITE constellation has demonstrated constellation control of an astronomy platform. The Student Space Telescope Network will utilize these advances to create a low-cost constellation for high quality astronomical observations. The work being done will describe the major design elements necessary to design and maintain a constellation of low-cost satellites and can be used as a guide for future development of the Student Space Telescope Network.

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