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Undergraduate spacecraft design projects

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1 Author(s)
Helfrick, A. ; Embry-Riddle Aeronaut. Univ., Dayton Beach, FL

A problem associated with space education in undergraduate and graduate curricula is the very nature of space engineering. The history of space tells a story of thousands of engineers from a broad spectrum of engineering disciplines along with physicists, chemists, and so on involved from the beginning of space exploration. It is extremely difficult to introduce design into the undergraduate curriculum because of this broad reach of disciplines. Universities and colleges have resorted to "paper designs" for design courses for space-related curricula. This direction ignores the need for a practical approach and results in grandiose and superficial designs that have little chance of success. Senior design projects involving simple spacecraft where actual hardware may be built and launched would be more beneficial to the engineering student. The broad spectrum of disciplines involved in spacecraft or space mission design is actually an important lesson to be learned by engineering undergraduates. Many universities have addressed the multi-disciplinary nature of the modern engineering and, much to the delight of industry; have implemented student design projects involving a number of academic departments, even outside of engineering. Unfortunately, the undergraduate student does not have the level of knowledge to design even a small part of a spacecraft. This paper considers various unique undergraduate space design projects that produce operating hardware and completed within one or two academic years

Published in:

Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:21 ,  Issue: 7 )