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TupperSats: Thinking Inside the Box for Space Systems Engineering

Status Report From: arXiv.org e-Print archive
Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2020

David Murphy, Robert Jeffrey, Deirdre Coffey, Morgan Fraser, Sheila McBreen, Lorraine Hanlon

As part of University College Dublin's MSc in Space Science & Technology curriculum, student teams, over the course of a single term, design, build, launch (on a meteorological balloon), operate and recover their own payload on a standardised platform. Each 'TupperSat' must be built from, or contained within, a household plastic storage container, It must weigh less than 1kg, be able to determine location, altitude, internal and external temperature and air pressure, and be able to broadcast this information using an in-house communications system. Students must also design and build a scientific payload or novel technology demonstration to fly on their TupperSat. 

Notable examples include an earth observation vegetation sensor, particle sample return, gamma-ray detector, and air-bag landing system. The instructors play the role of customer and launch authority. The students are provided with a number of standard components including a Raspberry Pi single-board computer, a 5000 mAH battery, high-altitude-compatible GPS unit, temperature and pressure sensors and, a small low-power radio transceiver module developed specifically for the course based on the LoRa standard. Teams are given a budget of EUR 100 ($115) to purchase additional materials and to build their payload. 

The students learn space industry practices by full immersion in a typical space project development cycle. TupperSat design and payload concepts are pitched by the student teams at a Preliminary Design Review; plans are well developed before a Critical Design Review, and the team must pass a Flight Readiness Review before being granted permission to launch. Good project management is crucial in order to meet deadlines and secure a launch at the end of the term. As student participation has grown, the module has been modified to allow for more ambitious and challenging projects which further motivates the students.

David Murphy, Robert Jeffrey, Deirdre Coffey, Morgan Fraser, Sheila McBreen, Lorraine Hanlon

Comments: 11 pages, 4 figures, presented at 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), Washington D.C., USA, 21-25 October 2019. Paper IAC-19-E1.4.6

Subjects: Physics Education (physics.ed-ph); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)

Cite as: arXiv:2010.03332 [physics.ed-ph] (or arXiv:2010.03332v1 [physics.ed-ph] for this version)

Submission history

From: David Murphy [view email]

[v1] Wed, 7 Oct 2020 11:06:22 UTC (1,785 KB)

https://arxiv.org/abs/2010.03332

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