CECIL, 1U Amateur Radio CubeSat; The Interaction of Private and Public Space Agencies

Femia, Eva, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Laugelli, Benjamin, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Goyne, Chris, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia

My technical project and STS Research Paper both address the process of getting a
satellite to the International Space Station (ISS) and then, from there, into orbit. In what follows,
I will explain how each section explores this process. I will then discuss the benefits of working
on the two projects in conjunction and how the STS research paper informed my technical
For my technical project, I am working in a group to design a CubeSat that operates on
amateur radio frequencies and will be launched to and off of the ISS. A CubeSat is a light,
compact nanosatellite intended for Low Earth Orbit. Therefore, after reaching the ISS, it can
simply be thrown into orbit and will burn up while reentering Earth’s atmosphere. The goal of
this satellite is to establish two-way communication with the UVA ground station and send
signals to the Amateur Radio Community, a group of hobbyists who have a fascination with
radio communication. This project is a response to UVA’s current satellite, Libretas, and its
inability to communicate with the ground station.
In my STS research paper, I argue that the rising success of SpaceX and other private
space-exploration companies is due to active efforts by NASA, as opposed to the two groups
being independent and in direct competition. After identifying a need to consistently resupply the
ISS, NASA began looking towards the private sector as an ally through the Commercial Orbital
Transportation Services (COTS) program. Using Actor-Network Theory as a framework, I
examine NASA’s role as a network builder, SpaceX’s role as an actor, and the Dragon capsule as
an example of success resulting from this collaboration. The momentum of an established
agency like NASA combined with the innovation and excitement of a newer company like
SpaceX broadens the scope of what either group could accomplish alone.
Launching the finalized satellite to and off of the ISS is a necessary component for my
technical project to be a success. By working on my STS research project simultaneously with
the technical project, I was able to fully understand this process. Had I not been working on the
two sections at the same time, I may have simply assumed that NASA is in charge of restocking
the ISS or that NASA and private companies work independently. This incorrect understanding
could have influenced our group as we set requirements for the technical design of our satellite.
Private companies could have different goals and interests than the government, and it is
essential to keep this in mind as we work towards our own goals. Overall, working on both of the
projects at the same allowed a complete assessment of the social environment in which our
technical project will exist.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
CubeSat, NASA, SpaceX, amateur radio, space exploration

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Christopher Goyne
STS Advisor: Benjamin Laugelli
Technical Team Members: Sean Bergmann, Henry Blalock, David Broome, Joshua Choe, Nathaniel Craft, Ari Goldman, Martin Keuchkerian, Gabriel Norris, Andrew Oxford, Jack Shea, Isabella Todaro, Zach Wilson, Monica Wuhrer

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