Graduate Projects I and II (ASEN 5018/6028) is a two-semester course sequence designed to expose MS and PhD students to Project Management and Systems Engineering disciplines while working a complex aerospace engineering project as part of a project team.   The project team of from 7 to 20 students will perform some or all of the following project activities during the two-semester course sequence:  

  • requirements definition
  • design and design review
  • build
  • test
  • verification.  

A lecture common to all lab sections will introduce students to project management, systems engineering, participating effectively on project teams, earned value management, contract types, human and robotic mission similarities and differences, entrepreneurship, and technology transfer and intellectual property issues.

For ASEN 5018, it is strongly recommended that students interested in a particular graduate project section enroll early in the open enrollment period. If a graduate project section is full, students are encouraged to choose another project. They may also place themselves on the waitlist; however, until all graduate projects sections have been adequately enrolled, waitlisted students are not guaranteed a spot in the course.

Graduate Projects is a suitable option for degree AES MS students who choose to complete two semesters of work on an aerospace engineering project rather than write a thesis or complete certificate required coursework to satisfy graduation requirements, and for PhD students who value this type of project experience to meet their coursework requirements.  The course is also open to students in other engineering departments with the approval of the project professor.

Students completing this course series will be better prepared for the type of project management processes and team dynamics they will encounter in government and industry. The knowledge and skills gained by the students as a result of taking this course will make them more competitive and effective in today's job market.

Section 011 – Human Spacecraft

  • Instructor: Colonel Jim Voss
  • Technical Sponsor: Colonel Jim Voss
  • Lab sessions are Tuesday and Thursday from 11:00 to 12:50 in ECAE 104.
  • Project restriction – None
  • Project Sponsor: Colonel Jim Voss

This project will design a human spacecraft to be used for astronaut crews to use in the exploration of our solar system.  The team will conduct a survey of existing systems that will enable safe and comfortable travel through a segment of the space exploration mission.   Students will develop a design of all spacecraft systems to satisfy the selected mission, with emphasis on all life support systems, crew accommodations, and human interfaces.  A preliminary design and layout of the spacecraft and all crew-required systems will be completed and validated with a mock up. Additional or future work will involve completion of a high fidelity mock-up of the interior of the habitat, and work on location and fit of systems and crew accommodations.  The mock up will be used for form and fit evaluations and human factors testing.  The project students will function as a team in support of a future NASA design and development program.

Section 013 - AMARCS

  • Instructor: Dr. Lakshmi Kantha
  • Technical Sponsor: POC at United Launch Alliance
  • Lab sessions are on Monday and Wednesday from 3:00 to 4:50 in ECAE 104.
  • Project restriction – Limited to US persons (ITAR)
  • Project Sponsor: United Launch Alliance

The Additive Manufactured Aerospike Reaction Control System (AMARCS) is a regeneratively cooled, liquid fuel, aerospike rocket engine designed for attitude and reaction control of satellites. What makes AMARCS unique is the use of additive manufacturing (3D printing) to manufacture the aerospike nozzle with the fuel passages printed internally into the nozzle for regenerative cooling.  Similarly, the complex injector design will also benefit from additive manufacturing. The overall objective of the AMARCS project is to prove that additive manufacturing can be used to manufacture flight ready parts of a rocket engine, with designs that would be difficult or impossible to manufacture by conventional deductive machining methods, while decreasing production cost and  time, and increasing performance.  The project is to demonstrate that, with appropriate post-printing heat treatment and finishing techniques, an additively manufactured Nickel alloy engine is able to operate as designed under the harsh high pressure, high temperature environment of a rocket engine. This assessment will be done through a hot fire test on a purpose-built test stand using LNG as fuel and GOX as the oxidizer. 

Section 014 – SmallSat Instrument Design

  • Instructor: Prof. Bob Marshall
  • Technical Sponsor: David Malaspina / LASP
  • The Lab sessions are on Monday and Wednesday from 1:00 to 2:50 in ECAE 104.
  • Project restriction – None
  • Project Sponsor: LASP

 The SmallSat Instrument Design project, sponsored by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at CU Boulder, will design and build prototype instruments for space science missions involving CubeSats or other small satellite platforms. The space industry has been and continues to be transformed by the introduction of CubeSats in the past decade or so, but have for the most part been limited in their scientific capability. This project endeavors to build 1--2 new instruments for space science that will provide unique, high-fidelity measurements to produce the highest quality scientific outputs. In the 2017--2018 AY, students will i) develop requirements from a LASP-provided conceptual design; ii) develop a detailed design of an instrument that will fit within CubeSat constraints; iii) build the prototype instrument; and iv) test and validate the instrument performance. The specific instrument(s) to be built will be determined in August 2017; candidates include a plasma radio sounder to measure the space plasma environment; a space dust analyzer; a far-ultraviolet (FUV) imager to image the Earth's airglow; or a solar occultation photometer to measure and monitor stratospheric ozone. Lab sessions are held on Monday and Wednesday from 1:00 to 2:50 pm in ECAE 104. 

Section 015 – DINO-CREx

  • Instructor: Dr. Dan Kubitschek
  • Technical Sponsor: John McVey at Aerospace Corporation
  • The Lab sessions are on Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 to 2:50 in George H. Born Conference Room (ECNT 3rd Floor)
  • Project restriction – None
  • Project Sponsor: Aerospace Corporation

The Deep Space Navigation Graduate Project focuses on the development of key autonomous, deep space navigation capabilities for CubeSat applications.  The project is sponsored by an industry partner with an interest in solving the technical challenges of on-board, autonomous measurement processing, orbit determination and maneuver computation and will require the students to lead, organize, schedule, develop, test, verify, validate and deliver conceptual approaches, hardware solutions and algorithms to the industry partner at the end of the semester.  Weekly status teleconference meetings will be held by the student team to keep the industry partner informed of the progress, with a final presentation and product deliverable, to be defined by the team in consultation with the industry partner.  It is expected that a conference paper and presentation will also be delivered by a designated team member at a future, related conference, to be selected by the student team and faculty advisor.  

Section 016 - CubeSat

  • Instructor: Dr. Marcin Pilinski
  • Technical Sponsor: Prof. Scott Palo
  • The Lab sessions are on Wednesday and Friday from 1:00 to 2:50 in ECAE 1B16.
  • Project restriction – None
  • Project Sponsor: CU-E3 – NASA; MAXWELL – Air Force

There will be two cubesat projects being developed simultaneously this year.  The first is the CU Earth Escape Explorer (CU-E3) that is part of the NASA Deep Space CubeQuest Challenge to build a cubesat to launch on the ULA Space Launch System.  The CU-E3 team was one of three teams selected for a slot on the SLS in 2019.  The project is nearing the completion of the critical design phase of the project and is currently fabricating flight hardware.  The 2017-18 academic year will be focused on integration and testing of the spacecraft.  Students on the team will work closely with NASA engineers to provide the required documentation for the project.  Key skills required for the project are deep space navigation, attitude control and dynamics, RF communications systems (components and ground segment), mechanical integration and software development.

The second cubesat is called MAXWELL, with a novel X-band and S-band spread spectrum RF communications payload sponsored by the Air Force University Nanosatellite Program. MAXWELL will be working towards a flight competition review in January 2018.  The satellite bus leverages hardware designed, built and flown by the University of Colorado Challenger and MinXSS CubeSat teams.  Challenger is part of the QB50 mission and MinXSS was selected at the 2016 Small Satellite Mission of the Year.  Over the next academic year there is significant electrical, mechanical, software and ADCS work to be completed.  Opportunities exist for electrical design (embedded systems, power systems, RF design, PCB layout), mechanical design and fabrication, ADCS design and analysis and ground system development.

Section 017 - X-Hab CARIL Project:  A Dehumidification / Rehumidification System Design Study for Integration with Cryo CO2 Removal

  • Instructor: Dr. James Nabity
  • Technical Sponsors: Dr. James Nabity (CU) / Mr. Roger Huang (NASA ARC)
  • Lab sessions are MW from 9 to 10:50am in ECAE104.
  • Project restriction – None
  • Project Sponsor: NASA Ames Research Center

This project is funded by NASA’s eXploration Habitation (X-Hab) 2018 Academic Innovation Challenge which seeks to develop advance technologies for space exploration.  Given current problems with the ISS CO2 removal assembly (CDRA) and crew health issues that stem from living in an atmosphere with elevated levels of CO2, NASA needs robust and reliable technologies for atmosphere revitalization.  Last year’s team explored novel supported ionic liquid membranes for CO2 removal.  This project will build upon that work with the principal challenge now to assess and improve upon the limitations for humidity control to dry and rehumidify cabin air streams to and from a CO2 Cryo cooler.  This project will study two approaches for drying cabin air within a membrane contactor: 1) use dry air from the Cryo CO2 removal system in a recuperative humidity management design and 2) selectively scavenge water vapor with a hygroscopic ionic liquid.  Students on this team will utilize test facilities in the Bioastronautics Laboratory (ECAE 1B65). 

Section 018 - MLI Heat Leak Characterization Testing

  • Instructor: Dr. James Nabity
  • Technical Sponsor: Tom Wells, Harris Corporation
  • Lab sessions are MW from 3 to 4:50 in the Seebass Conference Room.
  • Project restriction – Limited to US persons (ITAR)
  • Project Sponsor: Harris Corporation

This project funded by the Harris Corporation will experimentally assess spacecraft multilayer insulation (MLI) thermal performance.  The purpose of this effort is to develop a more thorough understanding of the contribution that different parameters have on blanket performance and generate design curves to allow for more accurate system level modeling of blankets for application to large deployable space structures.  The team will develop a Design of Experiments approach to perform MLI Heat Leak testing to characterize thermal transport property characteristics and develop design guidelines associated with each variable studied.  Students on this team will utilize Thermal Vacuum (TVAC) test facilities in the Bioastronautics Laboratory (ECAE 1B65).


Information for Industry Partners