P16104: Microfluidic Spectroscopy for Proteins within CubeSats

Problem Definition

Table of Contents

Team Vision for Problem Definition Phase

Project Summary

Scientists have discovered that exposure to microgravity has an effect on proteins. However, the specific effect is mostly unknown and could be critical to the study of human physiology. Biological research has thus far been limited to the International Space Station where experiments can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Over the past two decades, advancements in technology have enabled the development of miniature satellites known as CubeSats which have drastically reduced the cost of accessing low-earth orbit for conducting research. As of mid-2015, three CubeSats have successfully launched and performed biological experiments but none have examined proteins directly.

The goal of this project is to design a cost-effective bioassay that could be integrated into a CubeSat. The end result will be a functional prototype that performs automated folding analysis of hemoglobin and contains on-board electronics that store and transmit data to Earth for analysis. The prototype should meet NASA’s requirements of Technical Readiness Level 4 to demonstrate proof of concept in a laboratory environment. This process should greatly reduce the cost of performing experiments on proteins in space.

Link to one page Project Summary.

Project Background

Historically, scientists have studied the impact of microgravity on molecular biology by sending experiments to the International Space Station (ISS). While the ISS has significantly undercut the cost of performing experiments over previous alternatives, such as Skylab which was decommissioned in 1974, the cost to launch can still be upwards of $60,000/kg. At the dawn of the 21st century, significant advancement occurred through a cheaper alternative – miniaturized satellites known as CubeSats. The initial goal of the satellites was to enable graduate students to build, test and operate a spacecraft. Since inception, over 100 CubeSats have been launched into orbit by NASA, universities, not-for-profits, and individual hobbyists. To date, three known CubeSats have successfully conducted experiments in biology known as GeneSat, PharmaSat and O/OREOS.

Customer Interviews

Date Person Questions Notes
September 3, 2015 Dr. Lea Michel Session 1 Session 1


Stakeholder Position
Dr. Lea Michel Biochemistry Professor, Customer
Rochester Institute of Technology MSD Sponsor
MSD Team Device Developers
RIT SPEX Specific Interest Group

Use Cases

public/P16104 Use Scenario (2)

Project Goals and Key Deliverables

• Working bioassay prototype with NASA Technical Readiness Level 4

• Detailed documentation of design

• Test data to support Proof of Concept

Customer Requirements (Needs)


The working Customer Requirements document can be found here: Customer Requirements.

Engineering Requirements (Metrics & Specifications)

public/Engineering Requirements.png

The working Engineering Requirements document can be found here: Engineering Requirements.


House of Quality


The working House of Quality document can be found here: House of Quality.




The working Risks Management document can be found here: Risk Management.

Design Review Materials

The following presentation was given on September 10, 2015: PDF.

Plans for next phase

The working Gantt Chart document can be found here: Gantt Chart.

Individual Plans

Mallory Rauch's Three Week Plan: Mallory's Goals.

James Lewis's Three Week Plan: James's Goals.

Andrea Mazzocchi's Three Week Plan: Andrea's Goals.

Anna Jensen's Three Week Plan: Anna's Goals.

Darin Berrigan's Three Week Plan: Darin's Goals.

August Allen's Three Week Plan: August's Goals.

Matthew Glazer's Three Week Plan: Matthew's Goals.


Problem Definition Documents

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