Welcome to the University of Illinois Cubesat Project. We are currently finishing development of our 'IlliniSat-2' bus, a generic, scalable picosatellite bus system. We also have in development one in-house payload, and a partnership with a local company to fly two additional buses with their payload.
Please explore the site to learn more about the various subsystems and missions!
Goals of the Cubesat Program
Designing and building a satellite, even one the size of a cubesat, is a complex engineering endeavor, drawing on multiple disciplines and skills. The Cubesat Program at the University of Illinois provides our engineering students with a hands-on design, build, test experience involving a real satellite system. The interdisciplinary nature of the Cubesat Program also exposes the students to the broader issues related to systems engineering, and provides them with invaluable experience they can take with them into their ultimate careers. Providing this sort of educational experience to our students is what this program is all about.
The Cubesat Program at Illinois is integrated into an interdisciplinary engineering design class operated through the College of Engineering. The class is managed primarily by the Departments of Aerospace Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering, whose students comprise the majority of the class. The class is typically taken by undergraduate engineering seniors, but is open to any students with a background that allows the students to learn and be productive in the Cubesat Program. The class is offered fall and spring semesters, and is intended to be taken for two consecutive semesters, but enrollment is open for more if students are interested.
The class is run as a systems engineering project, with proposals, design reviews, demonstrations, and final presentations and documentation. New members of the class (the green team) are given a series of lectures on topics related to satellite design and operation as well as topics of systems engineering. Green team members also take part in a small project targeted at developing design and development skills related to aerospace technology, circuit design, or computer engineering. Once the introductory lectures and stream project are completed, the green team joins the project team, which is actively designing, testing, and building the IlliniSat-2 bus.
The project team members are divided into subsystem groups which work on different areas of the satellite. Information on these subsystem teams is available from the menu bar above. The project team members meet weekly for systems meetings and additional workshops meant to educate the students on aspects of systems engineering. Systems meetings are targeted at status reviews of pending tasks and to discuss systems-level issues. Subsystem teams also meet regularly to discuss tasks and to provide status to their TA manager.
The class is managed by professors from the departments of aerospace engineering and electrical and computer engineering as well as graduate teaching assistants who also manage the subsystem teams. Systems requirements for the bus are provided by the management team, but the design, test, and building of the satellite is done by the students.
The first cubesat built and launched by the University of Illinois unfortunately failed on launch in 2006 (see history page on the website). However, lessons learned from this first mission drove design improvements for a second satellite bus, named IlliniSat-2. This design, as opposed to the first IlliniSat bus, is meant to be more general, capable of usage on multiple missions and payloads. The IlliniSat-2 design requirements define minimum capability for power generation and storage, communications, attitude determination and control, command and data handling, and stringent mass requirements. These minimum requirements allow for a broad range of missions, including both scientific missions (Earth observing and in-situ sensing) as well as technology demonstrations (e.g. micro-thrusters, small deployable solar sails, flight testing of newly developed satellite components, etc.). The design objectives of the IlliniSat-2 bus are ambitious, with the goals of being able to conduct missions capable of scientifically relevant data measurements and/or space technology demonstrations.
Payloads for the IlliniSat-2 bus are designed and integrated according to the Payload Interface Document, which defines interfaces for power, communications, and structural integration of the payload. The bus as designed takes about 1 cube in volume, leaving 1-2U of volume available for a 2-3U cubesat.