Hypersonic ReEntry Deployable Glider Experiment; Addressing the Unseen Costs of Solar Panels

Obedin, Adam, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Goyne, Chris, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Earle, Joshua, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

As designers, engineers are trained consider costs. Yet, engineers generally will resist cost-cutting that may compromise system integrity. Managers, however, must deliver impressive short-term earnings reports as a career necessity. Hence, managers will often resist engineers’ advice and cut corners to achieve short-term gains at a high long-term risk. To prevent unintended disasters, engineers must develop a long-range perspective, and be able to develop effective solutions to technical problems, while remaining cognizant of both their monetary and non-monetary costs. To this end, this portfolio contains a technical report outlining a conceptual proposal for using a CubeSat to conduct hypersonic flight experiments at a lower cost than traditional methods, and a sociotechnical report examining the non-monetary costs associated with the photovoltaic panel industry.
The technical report was done as a part of the MAE 4700 Spacecraft Design class. The purpose of the project was to evaluate the feasibility of using CubeSats in hypersonic flight experiments for sustained flight applications, while preparing a conceptual design proposal for such a mission. Hypersonic flight occurs at speeds exceeding five times the speed of sound and is an expanding research field in the aerospace industry with civil and military applications. A CubeSat is a small satellite flown in low earth orbit that is well suited for undergraduate education, due to its relative simplicity and low cost. The hypersonic environment is difficult to replicate in wind tunnels and expensive to achieve on rockets and aircraft, making research in the field difficult. By using a CubeSat, university students would be able to conduct these experiments at a lower cost, and with greater accessibility.
The project was done in a group of 15 students, with smaller sub-groups tasked with designing the various subsystems of the spacecraft. In designing a CubeSat to satisfy these mission objectives, the Capstone team considered ways to aerodynamically manipulate the traditional CubeSat design to prolong hypersonic flight. By utilizing off-the-shelf CubeSat components where possible, the total cost of such a mission was minimized and kept beneath a ceiling of $100,000. The attached technical report outlines in more detail the team’s design proposal for a CubeSat that meets these objectives, the reasoning behind the various design decisions, and a roadmap for the necessary licensing, funding, and eventual launch of the spacecraft in the third quarter of 2024.
The sociotechnical project report was written as part of an independent research project to investigate the response of advocacies and industry to the non-monetary costs associated with PV panel production, to gain insight into what must be done to ensure a just, and sustainable path to decarbonization. Most of these non-monetary costs can be divided into two distinct categories, namely those that are associated with human rights abuses, and those that involve negative environmental impacts. In order to answer this question, the paper outlines the various costs associated with the industry, then examines the messaging of the various participants, paying particular attention to how they respond to each other.
It was discovered that in response to concerns about forced labor, once the outcry became loud enough, the industry took notice and altered its practices accordingly. This case shows how the concerns poised by the human rights advocacies, and their amplification by media outlets, exerted noticeable pressure on governments and industry, eventually resulting in appreciable change. However, when faced with environmental concerns, the industry took steps to combat these narratives by downplaying the problem and doing the bare minimum to address these concerns. As a result, there has been less progress in addressing these issues, and no evidence of any seismic shifts in the industry, as was seen with the human rights case. While it is clear that there is more work to be done, the research shows how the messaging of advocacies, industries, and governments is interconnected, and that the action of advocacies and media can be used to influence the behavior of regulators and industry. These findings have impacts beyond the scope of the PV industry and be applied to many other movements. As such, the simple act of raising awareness of important issues can influence the behavior of industries and government regulators, which can eventually result in meaningful change, as was shown in the case of the PV industry.

BS (Bachelor of Science)

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering
Technical Advisor: Chris Goyne
STS Advisor: Joshua Earle
Technical Team Members: Brendan Angelotti, Samantha Castro, Margaret Che, Jonathan Cummins, Desmond DeVille, Michael Fogarty, Jashianette Fournier Jaiman, Ryan Jansen, Emma Jensen, James Parker Johnson, Nicholas Lu, Adam Obedin, Eva Paleo, Cristina Rodriguez, Josh Willoughby

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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