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Summer for the SWARM-EX team

The Space Weather Atmospheric Reconfigurable Multiscale Experiment CubeSat (SWARM-EX) team at Olin has been working for a year and a half alongside five partnering institutes to design and construct three small satellites. The three 3U Cube Sats will be used to collect atmospheric data and are expected to launch to space in late 2023 alongside NASA or US Space Force payloads. Argyris, Linda, Braden, Tigey, Regan, Grant and Aissa spent the summer working on various projects related to the design and build of these satellites. The team took some time to discuss their work in the following Q&A:

    

Argyris Kriezis '22

What are you doing as part of the SWARM-EX team this summer? 

This summer was my third year working on the SWARM-EX project and I focused on the project management aspect of the mission. I was responsible for identifying the next steps the team had to take in order to fulfil our summer deliverables. I also acted as a mentor for younger members, helping them build their engineering skills.

Why does the work you are doing matter?

Project management requires you to combine engineering skills with helping everyone be the best at what they do. A complicated project like building a satellite can get stuck in multiple points during the design process, and the project manager is needed to make sure issues are resolved and the spacecraft is delivered on time.  

Why was it important to you to be a part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

It was really important for me to be working on the mission over the summer as I am graduating next year and want to pass down the knowledge. It has been my third year in the project and even though I would like to stay to watch it launch to space I need to transition the project and make sure it can run without me. In addition I wanted to make sure everyone had a fun time in the team and learned a lot through their experience in it.   

 

Linda Hu '23

What are you doing as part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

This summer I'm helping out with some of the mechanical engineering work at Swarm-Ex. One of my earlier tasks was to 3D print and assemble a prototype of the cube satellite. Another major project I worked on was running Finite Element Analysis (FEA) on the structure of the cube satellite to ensure that it was able to withstand the launch forces it would need to endure. Since I’m on campus I also help out with work on the ground station side. For example, I helped build the stand that the antenna and rotor is mounted to for testing purposes. I also help Regan with testing sometimes. 

Why does the work you are doing matter?

3D printing the cube satellite is important, because it allows us to make sure that all of the fasteners can be tightened without interference with components. The FEA is important to have a preliminary idea of the structural integrity of the satellite. Ground station testing is important, because the satellite is going to need to communicate with us when it is in space. 

Why was it important to you to be a part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

I was excited to work at Swarm-Ex, because I knew I would improve a lot as an engineer by working on a project like this. Everything feels higher stakes because this thing we’re working on is hopefully going to be launched into space someday.

 

Braden Oh '23

What are you doing as part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

I am doing systems engineering for SWARM-EX this summer.  Systems engineering is the art of tackling problems which cross multiple disciplines, problems that require multifaceted analyses which no single discipline is equipped to handle on its own.  One major analysis I performed this summer was a radiation environment and total ionizing dose assessment.  High energy radiation from far away stars and our own sun tear through our spacecraft, damaging computers as they go.  My job was to describe the amount and type of radiation that our satellite would experience and make a recommendation for how to design the satellite’s structure to shield our computers from the most dangerous radiation.

Why does the work you are doing matter?

Systems engineering is important because it deals with the problems that arise when trying to put different pieces of technology together.  A communications engineer may build a wonderful radio and an electrical engineer may design a powerful computer, but without the cables and protocols to allow the computer to talk to the radio, the spacecraft won’t be able to function.

Furthermore, systems engineers approach complex problems by looking at large scales for simple solutions.  A talented software engineer could write hundreds of lines of code to handle the errors in code execution due to radiation, but if a simple change to the spacecraft’s structure can be adjusted to provide adequate shielding, the software engineer can be freed to solve other more pressing concerns.

Why was it important to you to be a part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

Working with the SWARM-EX team has given me the incredible opportunity to work with and learn from people of very different backgrounds from my own. Our professors encourage discourse from students with other universities and graduate programs, and even host a regular seminar series where students talk about past research they’ve done, and where I had the opportunity to present on electric propulsion, a passion of mine.  Through that presentation, I learned that one of the professors working on SWARM-EX specializes in the exact field I’m passionate about!  Working with the SWARM-EX team has given me a re-energized inspiration for graduate school and the wonderful opportunity to build relationships with brilliant students from across the country

 

Tigey Jewell-Alibhai '23   

What are you doing as part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

This summer I am working on the structures team of SWARM-EX. This involves designing and iterating on the structure of the cubesat in Solidworks, adjusting it to meet the criteria that other subteams specify, and defining materials and fasteners. Finally, we also specify how the structure is made. While this is my primary responsibility, I have also been involved in other projects such as designing merch for the team!

Why does the work you are doing matter?

The work I am doing is crucial to the development of SWARM-EX. Without this work, there would be no structure to house all the components necessary for the mission. One of the reasons I enjoy this work is that I get to communicate with almost all the other subteams of SWARM-EX to help decide how their modules will interface to the structure. In this way, the structures subteam allows other subteams to define the physical size of their modules and how modules interface with one another.

Why was it important to you to be a part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

SWARM-EX has allowed me to improve my mechanical design and Solidworks skills as I had hoped it would. Beyond that, it has also given me insight into how other aspects of the cubesat work, such as propulsion, guidance, electrical systems and the instruments aboard. While I don't have good all around knowledge of these systems, I now understand them from a mechanical perspective which is very interesting and useful. Finally, being part of a cross-university project is great because I get to interact regularly with people from other universities.

 

Regan Mah '23

What are you doing as part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

I am working on the UHF Ground Station that will be able to communicate with the SWARM-EX mission once it is in space. It will both uplink commands and downlink telemetry for the satellite.

Why does the work you are doing matter?

The UHF ground station not only will communicate with the SWARM-EX mission but it will be able to communicate with other SmallSat missions as well as serve as a base for Olin’s Colligiate Amatuer Radio club (OCARC). This UHF station gives students the opportunity to be a part of real world mission experience as well as fosters a community around HAM radio operations. The UHF ground station also serves as a gateway for students to learn about communications and regulations concerning communications as well.

Why was it important to you to be a part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

It was important to me to be a part of the SWARM-EX team this summer because I wanted to complete the UHF ground station that I had been designing for the past year. It was important for me to work on it and make the designs that we had tangible, and I am happy that the UHF station will provide many opportunities for incoming students to Olin, leaving a lasting impact on the community.

 

Grant Miner '24

What are you doing as part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

I am supporting both the Structures and Systems team in completing the mechanical design of the satellite and determining how all of the components will fit together.

Why does the work you are doing matter?

The work I am doing will solidify the design of the satellite and ensure that it will function as intended

Why was it important to you to be a part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

I love the many different topics I'm being exposed to given the wide gamut of issues the project is facing. Even though I joined the team to primarily support the mechanical engineering team, I have been able to join some of the more electrical-related efforts. A project like SWARM-EX gives me the unique opportunity to explore all of the diverse subteam efforts that coalesce into our trio of spacecraft, and the team is always excited to explain anything I am not familiar with.

 

Aissa Conde '24

What are you doing as part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

I was part of the structures team so I help with CAD edits and 3D prints

Why does the work you are doing matter?

My work literally and figuratively provides support to the CubeSat mission and my lab members.

Why was it important to you to be a part of the SWARM-EX team this summer?

I wanted to experience being in a lab setting, while also working on an aerospace-related project. Being part of Swarm-Ex allowed me to pursue both of those things.