In Fall 2019, we achieved a couple of key milestones for the Brown Space Engineering team. Our R&D team pivoted to amateur rocketry and we settled into a new workroom. We formally presented research from EQUiSat, continued monitoring the satellite, elected a new generation of leaders, and most importantly, submitted the launch application for our next satellite!

PVDX: The Planetary Visuals and Dynamics eXperiment

A render of PVDX on orbit

From September to November we worked non-stop to complete the application for a sponsored launch from NASA through the CubeSat Launch Initiative. The high level goals have not changed – we are still making a 3U CubeSat with a screen and robotic arm that will be programmable by everyone. On November 4th, we submitted an 85 page proposal for PVDX; the Planetary Visuals and Dynamics eXperiment!

Much of our work this semester comprised of formalizing our partnerships and nailing down design details. The Rhode Island Space Grant and School of Engineering committed to providing funding for us through PVDX’s launch and we planned with White Mountain Science to help foster STEM education in northern New Hampshire.

BSE’s modular PVDX chassis prototype.

The team worked tirelessly and across subgroups to finalize the overall design. Avionics and Flight Software worked together to develop a sketch of system operations, finalize the system block diagram, and develop the detailed plans for PVDX’s radio system. The manufacturing team just finished machining a preliminary prototype of the chassis. CAD made the beautiful model you see above. And we onboarded about 15 new members to the PVDX project alone.

Thanks to advice from club alumni and others, we were able to refine our designs before sending it out to our formal reviewers. The review board included contributors from SpaceX, Draper, Stanford, and Brown. They were all excited by the mission while also giving us valuable feedback. Given their positive reception, we hope to be accepted to the CSLI again. We will find out the status of our application by the end of February.

PVDX’s high level block diagram showing the various planned components of the satellite.

EQUiSat

EQUiSat continues to function on orbit and reports data back down to BSE ground stations routinely. The satellite has degraded over time, and has not been flashing often, but the core systems have continued to function! Current estimates of EQUiSat’s orbit suggest it will deorbit and burn up sometime this summer or early in spring, and BSE will continue to investigate and learn from EQUiSat until then!

Last spring, we ran an independent study class with 6 students to perform research on EQUiSat’s data and mission. We completed two papers, one of which was accepted to the 2019 Open Source CubeSat Workshop in Athens, Greece! Thanks to money from a grant at Brown and generous donors to the club, Jacob (Project Manager) and Ashu (R&D Lead) were able to fly out for the week. They presented an analysis of EQUiSat’s mission. Jacob says of the experience:

“I was astounded by how much people valued our contribution to the conference. About 50% of the people I talked to knew who we were before our presentation. One group, TeideSat, even used EQUiSat as a template when developing their CubeSat! Sometimes it can feel like we work in a vacuum, so it was extremely validating to see that people really do care about what we’re doing.”

You can view their OSCW presentation below.


R&D

The R&D team transitioned to amateur rocketry this semester. They performed extensive research to understand the processes involved in safely building, testing, and launching amateur rockets, and began designing rockets and payloads. The team also constructed a launch platform and engine ignition system in preparation for their first launches. R&D plans to eventually compete in the SA (Spaceport America) Cup with their rocket designs.


Student Profile – New Leaders!

At the end of this year, many of our leaders will be graduating. We hold elections every semester, so this semester we elected two new co-presidents, a new treasurer and R&D lead, and a handful of subgroup leaders! They are:

New leaders will gradually take over club responsibilities next semester. We’re looking forward to the Spring!

Have a great New Years!

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