Purdue CubeSat is an interdisciplinary project to design, build, and launch Purdue University's first satellite. This team effort has been underway for 3 years, with the current team comprised of 10 undergraduate and graduate students. The Purdue CubeSat is classified as a pico-satellite and resembles a cube approximately 10 centimeters per side with a one kilogram gross mass. Upon completion (projected for 2007), the spacecraft will be launched aboard a Russian Dnepr or similar launch vehicle, in conjunction with the Cal Poly/Stanford CubeSat program.
The primary scientific mission is to measure the radiation environment on the satellite's nearly polar, circular orbit. Radiation data will be collected, stored, and transmitted to the ground station at Purdue. To support this science mission, a ground station is being constructed at Purdue's Aerospace Sciences Lab to receive, record, and process the down-linked data.
In addition to its scientific aims, Purdue CubeSat incorporates many important engineering goals. These objectives include: implementing an open-loop electromagnetic attitude control system, achieving a passively-stabilized orientation, and establishing and maintaining communication with the spacecraft in orbit. Additionally, the Purdue CubeSat will test an innovative power storage system, which employs both Lithium-ion batteries and double-layer capacitors.
To date, the conceptual design of the satellite has been completed. Currently, the team is conducting hardware testing of each subsystem (i.e. radiation detector, attitude determination and control, power storage and distribution, communication antennae, etc.). Once the hardware for each subsystem is operational, the team will integrate the components in a lab testbed. Following successful tests in the lab, the flight vehicle will be constructed and populated with subsystems. The CubeSat project is a unique opportunity because Purdue students gain hands-on experience with spaceflight hardware. The Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering curriculum is necessarily theoretical in nature. While the senior aircraft design course builds and tests a remotely-piloted airplane, the senior spacecraft design course is a conceptual design—completed on paper alone. CubeSat enables Purdue's aspiring astronautics students to obtain valuable multi-disciplinary, hands-on experience.