BWSI Course - Build a Cubesat

This BWSI course is dedicated to building, testing, and flying a Cubesat will offer this access to space for a new group of students. Based around a 1U Cubesat (10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm), the four-week course will guide the class through the design trades, assembly, and testing of a Cubesat with an imaging payload. The program will consist of two components.  The first is a series of on-line courses teaching the basics of satellite development coupled with computer driven exercises that will allow the class to perform key design trades for the mission involving communication, power generation and usage, size, mass, and performance.  The four-week summer proram will review the key points from the online course and add in lessons on how to handle and test hardware before heading into the lab to assemble and test and working satellite. During the summer course, students will work with Lincoln Laboratory staff and MIT graduate students to gain hands-on experience in building a space system.

The progression of miniature electronics coupled with the availability of launch rideshares provides access to space for a wide range of organizations that weren’t able to dream of such capability 20 years ago.   The advent of the Cubesat standard by Bob Twiggs and Jordi Puig-Suari in 1999 opened up real, achievable access to space for student projects that allows forhands-on development experience for the next generation of scientists and engineers.


Online Course

The online component for the BWSI Cubesat course contains important introductory material to provide students with the background required to successfully complete the four-week summer course.  In addition to the introductory material, the online course will expose students to real-world trades that occur when designing systems for space. 


Introduction and Prerequisites

  • Why we go to space?
  • Basics of rockets and orbital dynamics (using Systems Toolkit)
  • Spacecraft subsystems

Satellite Design Work

  • Spacecraft systems design trades
  • Power systems
  • Communications systems
  • Payloads and camera performance

Summer Course

The four-week summer component of BWSI CubeSat will focus on building and testing spacecraft hardware. Daily lectures will review the basics with the students, and guest lectures on key spacecraft systems will be given. With hardware kits at home, students will split into teams to get hands-on exposure to hardware testing, assembly, and programming. Students will be mentored by Lincoln Laboratory staff, and MIT faculty and graduate students, and WHOI engineers and scientists.


The following is a rough outline for the summer course:

Week 1: “Space, The Final Frontier” Hardware Basics and Systems Engineering

  • Space systems 101
  • Basic hardware safety and handling
  • Software fundamentals

Week 2: Spacecraft Subsystems

  • Testing and assembly of all subsystems
  • Payloads and camera performance
  • Communication and power
  • Software, the glue that holds it all together

Week 3: “Houston We Have A Problem” Making It All Work Together

  • Subsystem integration
  • System and software testing
  • Mission planning, attitude determination
  • Debugging and testing a flight system

Week 4: Test Flights and Analysis

  • Final functional testing
  • Simulated “flight”
  • Evaluate mission performance