Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
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AEM spotlight: USAF Selects Nanosat-6 for Competition

Nanosat-5 team

Demoz Gebre-Egziabher is the faculty adviser for the two-year competition sponsored by the U.S. Airforce. Since Gebre-Ebziabher's research involves Global Positioning Systems, the University's nanosatellite projects have tried to use it in novel ways.

Recently featured in an article in the MNDaily, the project is on the third cycle at the University of Minnesota. While the Nanosat-5 team was not selected to be launched in the January competition, AEM senior and Nanosat-5 project manager, Ellie Field, comments that the project is " indispensable opportunity for students to acquire satellite engineering experience before entering industry."

Below is an essay from Field about her experience. For more information on how you can be a part of this program, visit the project's website.

Nanosat-5 Info and Experience by Ellie Field (Project Manager)

The Nanosat-5 team at the University of Minnesota has established a sustainable infrastructure for future student satellite programs. The Nanosat satellite competition is a valuable program to sustain at the University of Minnesota. Students that participate in the 2-year Nanosat competitions explore future technologies for satellite applications and acquire training to become the future satellite engineering work force. In general, the Nanosat competition is an indispensable opportunity for students to acquire satellite engineering experience before entering industry.

Reaching the end of a Nanosat competition is a challenging endeavor that requires effort from many students. The greatest and most meticulous challenge is that each Nanosat team’s satellite and configuration management program must adhere to hundreds of pages of requirements from NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratories. I recruited nearly 60 students from the University of Minnesota over the 2-year course of the Nanosat-5 competition to participate on our team. In addition, 3 senior design projects from the aerospace engineering and electrical engineering departments were based on satellite engineering tasks provided by the Nanosat-5 team. Overall, through recruiting efforts nearly 100 students have gained satellite engineering experience through the Nanosat-5 team. No other programs at the University of Minnesota offer this experience.

Recruiting nearly 100 students significantly contributed to the growing personnel infrastructure of the Nanosat-5 team. We have also established a class 10,000 clean room in Akerman Hall and acquired sponsors to furnish the clean room and a lab with expensive equipment like oscilloscopes, function generators, and computers. I selected additional equipment to fully furnish our clean room and lab according to the Nanosat program requirements. With our facilities completely furnished, the Nanosat-5 team was able to construct a real satellite at the University of Minnesota, and can continue to do so.

Following the Air Force Research Laboratory’s requirements, the University of Minnesota Nanosat-5 team created nearly 300 documents to record every detail relating to the design, fabrication, testing, and analysis of our satellite. We generated a subversion repository that archives every document and monitors revisions. This type of repository is generally used only in industry because they are designed for high storage capacities. The fact that the Nanosat-5 team utilized a subversion repository is an example of the quality industrial experience that our program provides.

Over the course of the Nanosat-5 competition, I arranged 4 educational outreach activities for K-12 students. The University of Minnesota Nanosat-5 team has helped approximately 400 students through these educational outreach activities. We have conducted educational outreach activities because it is important to teach K-12 students about going to college, engineering opportunities, and the impact of technology on our daily lives. We hope that other University of Minnesota students will follow our example and participate in more outreach activities.

Nanosat-5 Mission Description

The purpose of the University of Minnesota Nanosat-5 program is to design, construct and validate a GPS bistatic radar for remote sensing and space situational awareness applications onboard small satellites in Earth orbit. The satellite, Goldeneye, uses a GPS bistatic radar system to collect direct and Earth-reflected GPS signals, and transmits this collected GPS signal data to a ground station. On the ground, we can use novel signal processing algorithms to extract information from the Earth-reflected GPS signals about conditions on the Earth's surface, such as wave height and wind speeds on the ocean. In general, the GPS bistatic radar system addresses the need for low cost and compact remote sensing of the Earth's surface that is unaffected by weather.

Nanosat-6 Recruiting

The Nanosat-6 team is now recruiting. For more info on joining the team, please e-mail Nanosat-6 Project Manager Kyle Zakrzewski (


Last Modified: Thursday, 29-Nov-2018 13:04:39 CST -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation