// a "bright" idea brought to you by the Brown CubeSat Team

Mission Overview

“Our mission is to construct a low-cost satellite that is trackable by amateur radio receiver and visible from earth to the unaided eye.”

Space has a reputation for being complicated. The public perception is that any attempt to understand the science of space will be not only frustrating, but nearly impossible for anyone without professional experience. This gap between the space industry and its market strains what really should be a cooperative relationship between producer and consumer.

 

Our mission is a campaign to change the public’s perception of the space industry. We intend to show that space technology is accessible to non-professionals, and therefore open the field of micro-satellite design to entrepreneurs outside university programs and government agencies . Our satellite will be low-cost and constructed in a short time-frame by a small group of amateurs. It will simplistic enough to be  reproducible and accessible to non-professionals.

 

Moreover, the satellite will be highly accessible to the public eye. It will transmit a radio–frequency signal that can be read by anyone; this will confirm the satellite’s existence and facilitate locating it. Most importantly, under the correct conditions, it will be visible to unaided-eye of an observer on earth via an optical beacon. This mission will demonstrate to consumers that a basic understanding of extra-terrestrial engineering is both reasonable and worthwhile.

 

Our project will serve as a model to other potential small satellite makers that want information on implementing low tech methods for LEO-Earth communications. This information will be helpful both as a baseline for more complicated systems or for initial planning for implementing similar systems.
By expanding accessibility in many forms, EQUiSat fulfills several of NASA’s strategic goals.

For Brown’s thinkers, there’s the project itself:

Inspiring students to be our future scientists, engineers, explorers, and educators…

The entire satellite is student-built — uniting faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates together over the many challenges inherent in both space design and systems engineering. For many on the team, EQUiSat is an outlet for creativity, and a rare opportunity to practice professional engineering outside of the classroom.

For the DIY (Do It Yourself) community at home and other educational institutions, there is documentation:

Inform, engage, and inspire the public by sharing NASA’s missions, challenges, and results.

One of our primary goals is to publish detailed, open-source documentation and fundamental research that shows both the technical and strategic challenges encountered in the design process from concept to launch. The entire satellite is affordably designed and built in-house from off-the-shelf components, allowing everyone to understand how the systems and their pieces function. With the final documentation (to be available via this site), another university should be able to replicate our design in under a year for less than $5,000.

After launch, this website will become a place of public forum, allowing individuals to share sightings, downlinks, and learn more about the critical role satellites play in modern society.

For the public, there’s outreach, participation, and education:

Improve retention of students in STEM disciplines by providing opportunities and activities along the full length of the education pipeline.

It may not be available in traditional textbooks, but space engineering can absolutely be a part of school classrooms. EQUiSat’s team is working with schools and communities around New England to demonstrate how satellites are built and, more importantly, that they exist. We are cooperating with students in Brown’s education department to develop lesson plans demystifying space design and to pair lessons with interesting hands-on activities. We want to show all age and grade levels that science unlocks a new world of opportunity for exploration. With a simple ham radio and a clear night, students will be able to see and hear EQUiSat overhead and experience the kind of technology that brings them everything from GPS to satellite TV to eerie pictures of distant planets.

For the technical, there’s newly approved space technologies:

Develop and demonstrate the critical technologies that will make NASA’s exploration, science, and discovery missions more affordable and more capable.

EQUiSat will develop innovative new space technologies, like terrestrially visible optics and LiFePO4 battery chemistry. LiFePO4 batteries can supply high current levels unattainable by traditional Li-Ion batteries, enabling new high-power electronics. Visible optics can give way to new novel methods of orbit tracking and optical communications. All parts of EQUiSat are being built in-house or assembled from off-the-shelf components.  Most importantly, low-budget, well-documented designs render all of these technologies accessible to the curious and professional alike.