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MSP’s capstone project contributions

At MSP, we value a wide range of educational enrichment — and while our main engineering projects focus on our volunteers, we also offer other ways students can get involved. Through these additional opportunities, we hope to bring dynamic experiences to those who may want to contribute to MSP but may not have the capacity to take on direct volunteer work (and while being able to earn university credit, too).

In the lead-up to ACRUX-1, over a dozen capstone projects were undertaken with MSP. Here we highlight a few of those projects. 



Flight Vehicle and External Components for Cube Sats

Students: Di Qiao & Xin Kai Zhao Supervisor: Prof. Stan Skafidas

Satellites are a combination of technologies including computer science, communication system, control system and other related technologies. With the contribution from satellites, humans are able to obtain information better than ever before.

Due to a high demand in satellites, more accurate and robust methods are required to control the attitudes of the fight vehicle in space. The project focused on exploring an optimised way of controlling the satellite to ensure the cameras on it are able to point towards the earth with the aim of taking photos of the earth’s surface. With this method, we aimed to achieve a clearer and more accurate camera shooting.

Developing a Control Scheme for the University of Melbourne Radio Telescope

Students: Lucas Palmer, Michael Malek & Robert Mearns* Supervisor: Prof. Denny Oetomo

Satellites in Low Earth Orbit, such as the International Space Station, remain within the field of view of a ground observing station for mere minutes at a time. Ground based communication antennas must be able to accurately track the rapid motion of these satellites in order to maximise the efficiency of data transmission.

This project involved developing a smooth control scheme for the University’s radio dish that would allow it to be used as a communications ground station for microsatellites using modern feedback control techniques.



3D Printed Metal NanoSatellite Chassis

Sahand Jahdi mans the stand at UoM’s Endeavour Exhibition. Credit: Megan Toomey, Melbourne Space Program.

Students: Aashrith Dayanand & Sahand Jahdi Supervisor: Prof. Kenong Xia

Typically speaking, nanosatellites employ chassis constructed using traditional manufacturing techniques. Due to the limited mass and volume available, minimising the chassis structure through the use of metal additive manufacturing methods presents an exciting opportunity to increase the capabilities of these satellites. The aim of this project will be to design and produce a 3d printed metal satellite chassis capable of meeting NASA’s NanoSatellite specifications. In particular, this project will require: an understanding of additive metal manufacturing, the choice of suitable alloys, material stress analysis, the design and manufacture of a satellite chassis, and the validation of the designed chassis.

Space Telescope Cryogenic Thermal Control System

Students: Hasnain Jabbar, Josh Kuttikat & Amit Saini Supervisor: Prof. Yi Yang

Space telescopes have historically been limited to massive satellites. With the recent availability of extremely small lightweight components, the possibility to produce small space-based telescopes now exists. The sensors and mirrors used in these telescopes must be kept within a very small temperature range to ensure optimal functionality. The aim of this project was to design a cryogenic cooling and control system to maintain the temperature of a space based telescope detector and mirrors while meeting the strict mass, volume and power requirements. In particular, this project required: a comprehensive understanding of thermodynamics, heat exchanger design, choice of working fluid, the design and manufacture of a thermal control system prototype, and the validation of the designed system.

Attitude Determination and Control System for a 6U NanoSatellite

Anton Tarasenko, Retno Widyanti and Lucas Berezy show off their work. Credit: Megan Toomey, MSP.

Students: Retno Widyanti, Lucas Berezy, Anton Tarasenko* Supervisors: Dr. Iman Shames & Prof. Michael Cantoni

Nanosatellites are becoming a viable alternative for space-based scientific investigations – an area that has traditionally been the domain of large and expensive satellites.

An attitude determination and control system (ADCS) is required to orient the satellite in space to meet these scientific objectives. This system should achieve fine accuracy and stability of the pointing vector. In the case of nanosatellites, the ADCS must also conform to the more stringent mass, volume and power requirements associated with the miniaturised form-factor.

This project showcased the design and implementation of an attitude determination and control system prototype for a 6U satellite using low-cost hardware and software.

High Altitude Balloon Mesh Network

Students: Ce Zhang, Jianchun Li & Qingyun Lin Supervisor: Prof. Jamie Evans

Satellite communication systems are widely used for global, high coverage communication around the world. However, The up and downlink to these networks are limited to purpose built ground stations. For LEO satellites, many such ground stations are required for constant communication.

To increase the time it is possible to communicate with these satellites, a high altitude balloon communication network is built to act a bridge or relay network to link any satellite with any given ground station. This project aimed to investigate the feasibility and use of large numbers of high altitude balloons to form relay networks between any two points on earth or between orbit and earth. High altitude balloons may present a more economically feasible solution than dedicated satellite communication networks.

Orbital Phased Array Network

Zijian Sun & Wei Tai stand tall in front of their hard work. Credit: Megan Toomey, Melbourne Space Program.

Students: Zijian Sun & Wei Tai Supervisor: Prof. Jamie Evans

The Melbourne Space Program is designing and building a number of nanosatellites, to be launched over the coming years. These satellites are uniquely suited to form low-cost earth wide networks for communication and observing.

In this earth wide satellite network, individual satellites as nodes can form a phased array, which uses constructive interference to increase the signal strength in a desired direction while minimizing interference in others. The aim of this project was to demonstrate the potential and feasibility of such a network.

RF Hardware for Satellite Communication Systems

Students: Bojia Liu, Tong Zhao & Zhonghan Li Supervisor: Prof. Stan Skafidas

The Melbourne Space Program is designing and building a number of nanosatellites, to be launched over the next few years. To communicate with the ground station, a transceiver at the satellite end is utilized.

This project aimed to design and implement a transceiver, comprising an analog front end, a Tigersharc and optimized circuits on one Printed Circuit Board (PCB). This transceiver would be able to realize modulation and demodulation of signals and provide a real-time signal processing. Additionally, it could deal with the problems during communication, such as noise, transmission errors and signal attenuation.



De-orbiting small satellites for natural disaster response (DESSNDR)

Students: Devon Arganaraz, Kapil Kumar, & Byung yeon Mun Supervisor: Dr. Airlie Chapman Prize: Best Mechanical Engineering Project

CubeSats are small, standardised satellites, as small as 10cm x 10cm x 10cm or 1U. They can be easily made with cheaper components, making space missions more accessible for smaller organisations. While launch options are well-understood, their end-of-life options are unexplored and require a de- orbiting solution. Our project aimed to model, conduct a feasibility study, and map out uncertainties regarding de-orbiting options for CubeSats. The aim of this project was to achieve first response for restoration of communications in natural disaster affected areas by the delivery of a communications device. We would like to thank our sponsor STELaRLab of Lockheed Martin.

Interested in doing your university capstone/research project with MSP? You can do a research project with us while undertaking a degree from any Melbourne-based university.

Just get in touch with us with your idea at We’d love to hear from you!

*These capstone students were also MSP volunteers, so we’d like to thank them doubly for all their incredible contributions to the program!

Compiled by: Karin Ericsson Edited by: Megan Toomey

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