P20101: 3u Cubesat Flight Control


Project Summary Project Information

Lightning Talk Project Overview Video here: YouTube Video Link

CubeSats are small form factor satellites based on standard specifications introduced in 1999. They are used in all space sectors, primarily in research. The low risk, low cost, and methods of transport to orbit as secondary payloads to larger missions makes them well suited for universities and research institutions interested in furthering space exploration, science, and technology development. RIT’s own student organization, SPEX (space exploration), has been developing and proposing CubeSat missions for several years. The main payload for this mission is a Solar Sail.

Solar sails are a method of "fuel-less" propulsion in that the effective propellant are photons. Solar sails are a very popular topic of research currently due to the possibility of constant propulsion over a long-term mission, a good example of this is the Starshot mission that is currently under investigation by multiple universities and institutions. Standard solar sailing works on the specular reflection of photons. There is a quantum mechanical equation called "the Energy-Momentum equivalence" which relates the momentum and mass of a particle to its energy. In equation form,

E2 = p2 c2 + m2 c4

Where p is the momentum, c is the speed of light, and m is the mass of the particle. As stated above, a photon does not have mass thus this equation reduces to the common form,

E = p c

This equation shows that photons have momentum and when they hit another object they will transfer their momentum to that object based off their incident angle.

The addition of diffractive elements on the solar sail will enable a controlled photon reflection angle. The primary scientific objective is to prove that diffractive solar sails are effective in practice. The way this will be implemented is by adding small elements of diffractive elements on the perimeter of the sail to induce a torque around the longitudinal axis of the CubeSat (that is, the axis normal to the smallest cross-section of the structure). Then the CubeSat will use on-board accelerometers to measure the resultant torque and compare that signal to a simulated (theoretical) signal which will show the team whether or not the diffractive was effective.

The previous team, P19101, redesigned the solar sail deployment system and started to build an electrical system. The goal of this year's development is to get the sail fully deployed, design an ADCS to determine the cubesat's position and adjust the sail, and integrate a communication system to send a downlink to an RIT ground station. We will also work on designing an experiment to show if the solar sail is changing the cubesat's orbit, and writing a mission plan.

For an updated project description, click on the following link for the Project Readiness Package and the 1-Page Project Summary.

Put Sponsor logo(s) here
Put Sponsor logo(s) here
Project Name
3U CubeSat: Solar Sail
Project Number
Project Family
P19101, P18101
Start Term
2191 (Fall 2019)
End Term
2195 (Spring 2020)
Faculty Guide
Art North, ajnddm@rit.edu
Primary Customer
RIT SPEX, NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)
Faculty Champion
Dr. Mihail Barbosu, mxbsma@rit.edu
Faculty Stakeholder
Dr. Grover Swartzlander
Collaborating MSD Project
P20151: LASSO

Team Members

Back Left to Right: Amber, Jarrett, James, Charles, Front Left to Right: Sarah, Nick

Back Left to Right: Amber, Jarrett, James, Charles, Front Left to Right: Sarah, Nick

Member Role Discipline Contact
Amber Dubill Principle Investigator ME ald4035@rit.edu
James Emerson Parkus Systems Engineer ME jep7631@rit.edu
Sarah Wittenauer Facilitator and CAD ME sw3583@rit.edu
Charles Nystrom Flight Software Engineer EE can2066@rit.edu
Jarrett Wehle Electronics Design, Purchasing, Ice Rink EE jtw9947@rit.edu

Work Breakdown: By Phase


Planning & Execution

Project Photos and Videos

Imagine RIT

Gate Reviews

Problem Definition

Systems Design

Preliminary Detailed Design

Detailed Design

Build & Test Prep

Subsystem Build & Test

Integrated System Build & Test

Customer Handoff & Final Project Documentation (Verification & Validation)

Work Breakdown: By Topic

Project Management Design Tools Design Documentation Implementation Validation Presentation & Dissemination





Purchase Orders

Risk Management

Problem Management

Peer Evaluations

Project Planning

Communication & Minutes

Use Cases


Functional Decomposition

Transform Diagram

Morphological Chart

Pugh Concept Selection

Block Diagrams


Mechanical Drawings

Electrical Schematics

PCB Gerber Files

Software Diagrams


Orbital Simulations

ADACS Simulations

ADACS Manufacturing Plans

Prototyping Electronics Manufacturing Plans

Flight Electronics Assembly Plans

Graphic User Interface

Software Status

Test Plans

Orbital Simulations

ADACS Simulations

Test Results

Problem Definition Review Presentation

Systems Level Design Review Presentation

Preliminary Detailed Design Review Presentation

Detailed Design Review Presentation

Subsystem Build & Test Presentation

Customer Handoff & Final Project Documentation Presentation

Technical Paper


S-CUBED Mission Document