The Virginia CubeSat Constellation Mission; The Loudest Voice in the Room

Greer, Cameron, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Goyne, Chris, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Foley, Rider, University of Virginia

From the early days of spaceflight in the 1960’s to the present-day goal of colonizing Mars, American stakeholders have had unrivaled influence in the global aerospace industry. This has created a dynamic in which American stakeholders assume that their values are shared by a majority of interest groups worldwide. Because of this, the research presented in this paper explores exactly how much sway American stakeholders have over the direction of global aerospace research and development.

The technical portion of this paper details the life of the University of Virginia Libertas CubeSat from its initial deployment through the final day of data collection. While this satellite is currently collecting the essential data required to improve present-day atmospheric density models, it is also a key piece of evidence as to why the social dimensions of this technological system must be explored. The development of the CubeSat is the result of the societal emphasis, specifically in the United States, placed on cheap, reliable space research. This goal, however, was pursued by a relatively small group of influential actors within the American aerospace industry, each with their own values and beliefs. These perspectives are inevitably inscribed into the technologies that stakeholders develop. Because of this, it is critical to examine how these perspectives alter (a) how a technology is developed and (b) how that technology is implemented into societies around the globe.

Instrumental in performing this sociotechnical analysis is the theory of Social Constructivism. This theory provides the framework for analyzing the timeline of technological development from the initial inscription of personal values to the final phase of societal acceptance. Along with this framework, the research methods used in this paper will yield an unbiased analysis of the impact that American stakeholders have in the global aerospace industry. Such methods include (a) demographic analyses of 5 major aerospace & defense corporations, (b) case studies highlighting the differences in how aerospace technologies are used by different social groups, and (c) interviews with leaders in the American aerospace sector.

Once complete, I expect this research to demonstrate that there are perspectives held by foreign stakeholders that are being overshadowed by those of American stakeholders. When combined, the technical and STS portions of this paper will highlight the need for American aerospace leaders to consider a greater array of perspectives when deciding the avenues of research and development that will be pursued. In an industry that is spearheading the colonization of Mars, it is necessary to ensure that aerospace technologies push us towards a bright future for all—not only for those fortunate enough to have a seat at the design table.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Social Constructivism, Aerospace, Diversity, CubeSat

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering
Technical Advisor: Chris Goyne
STS Advisor: Rider W. Foley
Technical Team Members: Joe Brink, Conner Hsiang, Margaret Pollard, Connor Segal

Issued Date: