Challenges and Opportunities of Small Satellite Projects as Educational Tools: An Engineering Perspective

  • Mohamed Al-Awani

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Space exploration through satellite technology has resulted in extensive research to come up with smaller, lighter and energy efficient satellites. In this regard, CubeSat projects are becoming increasingly popular with universities as they serve as perfect tools for students to learn about space systems through an integrated project based learning setup. A CubeSat is a small satellite made of one or several units sized 10x10x10 centimeters and weighing no more than 1.33 kilograms per unit. Although small satellites come with vast advantages to be used as educational tools, a holistic approach to minimize the overall life cycle costs is still lacking. This is because existing project management techniques tend to focus on specific areas of systems engineering and project management (i.e. cost, schedule, and scope). Therefore, an integrated programming approach to plan task sequence, resource distribution, and risk mitigation for both the development and an operation phase of the projects is needed. In this work, challenges and opportunities of small satellite projects as educational tools is studied in an engineering perspective. In particular, we use the first satellite being built at Masdar Institute, MYSAT-1 as a case study to analyze such challenges and opportunities. The analysis led to the development of a simple framework for automatic concept of operations (Auto-ConOps). A risk assessment was also conducted which shows that small satellite projects (CubeSats) can be great educational tools, taking into account the big efforts, budgets and time invested in big satellite projects compared to the small ones.
Date of AwardMay 2017
Original languageAmerican English


  • Satellites
  • Educational tools
  • CubeSat Projects
  • Masdar Institute
  • MYSAT-1
  • Automatic Concept of Pperations (Auto-ConOps).

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