Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education & Research






Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


The first decision that goes into setting the tone for a senior capstone spacecraft design course is the choice of the projects. There are several sources of ideas for design projects, including design competitions and topics set by various technical committees. A new source of design ideas comes from real world design projects. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Office of Space Science originally released an Announcement of Opportunity in spring 2002 to solicit designs for a complete Mars mission. The Senior Capstone Spacecraft Design course in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University paralleled this proposal process for the spacecraft design projects for the 2002-2003 academic year. While the original announcement called for proposers to determine what kind of a flight mission they would conduct, eight specific, realistic flight missions were chosen and assigned to the eight teams in the class. Many of the important aspects of the original project were duplicated; however, a significant amount of material was deleted. This paper discusses the outcome of the year-long course, compares some of the designs developed by the students to the designs chosen in the actual NASA mission design, and draws conclusions about the advantages and disadvantages of selecting a project based from a real solicitation.





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