675.710.81 - Small Satellite Development and Experimentation

Space Systems Engineering
Spring 2024


The capstone course in the Space Systems Engineering Program will introduce practical methods and tools used for evaluating the design and implementation of space systems—with a particular focus on small satellites and CubeSats. This will be principally achieved through a significant experimentation laboratory component intended to reinforce analytical experience with empirical exposure and insight. The laboratory will build on prior foundational understanding of spacecraft subsystem design and performance, through a structured series of experiments and investigations to be conducted both individually and in small student teams. It will utilize tabletop satellite simulator kits that are especially designed for hands-on educational purposes, while drawing heavily on the analysis methods and tools developed in the Fundamentals of Engineering Space Systems I/II sequence. All work is aimed at preparing for and executing a single long-residency-weekend exercise, nominally held during the final quarter, 10th or 11th week, of the semester at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The lab component will have a mandatory set of core hours. The residency-lab will meet the Friday (5p-8p) and Saturday (8a-8p). Students are responsible for their own travel and accommodations, as required. Following residency weekend, there will be no scheduled classes, with only final laboratory deliverables and any remaining assignments, due per provided instructions.


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Drew Knuth


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Stephanie Lepchenske


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J. Felipe Ruiz


Course Structure

The course materials are divided into modules which can be accessed by clicking Modules on the course menu. A module will have several sections including the overview, content, readings, discussions, and assignments. You are encouraged to preview all sections of the module before starting. Most modules run for a period of seven (7) days, exceptions are noted in the Course Outline. You should regularly check the Calendar and Announcements for assignment due dates.

Course Topics

  1. EyeSat Team Project Requirements
  2. Microcontrollers
  3. Batteries
  4. Solar Cells
  5. Thermistor
  6. Motor Controllers
  7. Residency Weekend Requirements & Expectations.

Course Goals

To apply systems engineering principles through a hands-on experience with representative small satellite subsystems.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)


None required.  All course material will be provided via Canvas.

Student Coursework Requirements

Student Coursework Requirements: 



% of total grade

Preparation, Participation, Timeliness


A1: EyasSat Requirements


A2: Team Test Plan


A3: Microcontroller Home Lab


A4: Battery Home Lab


A5: Solar Cell Home Lab


A6: Thermistor Home Lab


A7: Motor Controller Home Lab


A8: Team Lab Report


A9: Lessons Learned


Home lab reports will be graded on a scale that differentiates between demonstrated levels of performance and provides students with feedback on what they need to do to get better. The scales will be:
“Exceeds Expectations” for work that clearly represents a superb performance earning a 100% to 91%, (or an A+ to A grade);
“Meets Expectations” for works that meets the assignment requirements, in the 90%-81%, (or the A- to B range);
“Towards Expectations” for work that shows an application of developing skills with room for improvement, earning a score in the 80%-70%, (or the B- to C grade range); a
“Does Not Meet Expectations” for incomplete, misapplied concepts, or incoherent ideas that signal a performance less than desired and earning a score below 70% (in the D to F range.)
Home Labs are individual efforts however, online collaboration via Canvas discussion boards is encouraged
Overall grading approach: Doing what you are asked to do in the assignments earns a B (80% - 89%), in other words, doing a good job of completing the assignments as-written is a B
Going above and beyond the assignment will earn an A (90% - 100%), this can be demonstrated by:
A systems analysis that is complete and thorough conveying an in-depth understanding of the subject matter
Additional experimentation or an in-depth analysis and discussion of prevailing error sources

Grading Policy

EP uses a +/- grading system (see “Grading System”, Graduate Programs catalog, p. 10).

Score RangeLetter Grade
100-97= A+
96-93= A
92-90= A−
89-87= B+
86-83= B
82-80= B−
79-77= C+
76-73= C
72-70= C−
69-67= D+
66-63= D
<63= F

Academic Policies

Deadlines for Adding, Dropping and Withdrawing from Courses

Students may add a course up to one week after the start of the term for that particular course. Students may drop courses according to the drop deadlines outlined in the EP academic calendar (https://ep.jhu.edu/student-services/academic-calendar/). Between the 6th week of the class and prior to the final withdrawal deadline, a student may withdraw from a course with a W on their academic record. A record of the course will remain on the academic record with a W appearing in the grade column to indicate that the student registered and withdrew from the course.

Academic Misconduct Policy

All students are required to read, know, and comply with the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS) / Whiting School of Engineering (WSE) Procedures for Handling Allegations of Misconduct by Full-Time and Part-Time Graduate Students.

This policy prohibits academic misconduct, including but not limited to the following: cheating or facilitating cheating; plagiarism; reuse of assignments; unauthorized collaboration; alteration of graded assignments; and unfair competition. Course materials (old assignments, texts, or examinations, etc.) should not be shared unless authorized by the course instructor. Any questions related to this policy should be directed to EP’s academic integrity officer at ep-academic-integrity@jhu.edu.

Students with Disabilities - Accommodations and Accessibility

Johns Hopkins University values diversity and inclusion. We are committed to providing welcoming, equitable, and accessible educational experiences for all students. Students with disabilities (including those with psychological conditions, medical conditions and temporary disabilities) can request accommodations for this course by providing an Accommodation Letter issued by Student Disability Services (SDS). Please request accommodations for this course as early as possible to provide time for effective communication and arrangements.

For further information or to start the process of requesting accommodations, please contact Student Disability Services at Engineering for Professionals, ep-disability-svcs@jhu.edu.

Student Conduct Code

The fundamental purpose of the JHU regulation of student conduct is to promote and to protect the health, safety, welfare, property, and rights of all members of the University community as well as to promote the orderly operation of the University and to safeguard its property and facilities. As members of the University community, students accept certain responsibilities which support the educational mission and create an environment in which all students are afforded the same opportunity to succeed academically. 

For a full description of the code please visit the following website: https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/policies-guidelines/student-code/

Classroom Climate

JHU is committed to creating a classroom environment that values the diversity of experiences and perspectives that all students bring. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Fostering an inclusive climate is important. Research and experience show that students who interact with peers who are different from themselves learn new things and experience tangible educational outcomes. At no time in this learning process should someone be singled out or treated unequally on the basis of any seen or unseen part of their identity. 
If you have concerns in this course about harassment, discrimination, or any unequal treatment, or if you seek accommodations or resources, please reach out to the course instructor directly. Reporting will never impact your course grade. You may also share concerns with your program chair, the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, or the Office of Institutional Equity. In handling reports, people will protect your privacy as much as possible, but faculty and staff are required to officially report information for some cases (e.g. sexual harassment).

Course Auditing

When a student enrolls in an EP course with “audit” status, the student must reach an understanding with the instructor as to what is required to earn the “audit.” If the student does not meet those expectations, the instructor must notify the EP Registration Team [EP-Registration@exchange.johnshopkins.edu] in order for the student to be retroactively dropped or withdrawn from the course (depending on when the "audit" was requested and in accordance with EP registration deadlines). All lecture content will remain accessible to auditing students, but access to all other course material is left to the discretion of the instructor.