MagTag multipurpose cover for Altius Space Machines
In May of 2019 I completed my work as the project manager for a team of five other engineering undergraduate students. We were tasked with designing a satellite component for Altius Space Machines, a company local to Broomfield Colorado. Our design had to include solar cells, a magnetic interface, and had to survive exposure to low Earth orbit conditions for five years. During development, our client added the required functionality of holding a cube satellite to the launch vehicle through launch using nothing but magnets and alignment pins.
My contribution to the project included designing for survivability. The prototype we delivered to Altius was not space-ready, but our suggestion for future iterations was to put glass additives in the mechanical components to protect against atomic oxygen as well as to coat the device in silicon dioxide to increase protective redundancy.
I also participated in manufacturing testing components to determine the feasibility of our prototype design. Our magnetic arrays came with specs defined by Altius. As a result, we had only a few variables to test pertaining to the rods used in the magnetic circuit:
1. Material type, considering manufacturability.
2. Length and diameter of metal rods.
3. Placement of metal rods.
4. Parallelism and flatness of metal rods in the assembled array.
From this testing, we found a required tolerance of ±0.001" for the lengths of the rods and that the rod diameters would be equal to half those of the magnets with which they interfaced. We also determined that the length of the rods was practically inconsequential. Manufacturing constraints determined the material that was used.
I assisted the manufacturing engineer in securing out-of-house manufacturing quotes for parts with tight tolerances, very fine surface finishes, and complex geometries. This provided me with a great lesson in communication outside of a team of well-informed engineers who are familiar with the design requirements. We had two components made incorrectly, and I assisted the manufacturing engineer and financial manager in rectifying the production dispute with the manufacturer.
The contribution I made to the team that had the greatest impact was to keep the individuals on the team motivated and engaged through the scope changes we faced. I had a number of strong opinions informed by diverse backgrounds on my team. It was my job to make sure each voice was heard and that all avenues of development were considered, especially when external influences forced us to abandon some of those avenues. I believe that my collaboration with each team member and the importance I placed on each of their contributions helped us deliver our prototype on schedule.
When we presented our physical prototype at expo the CEO of Altius praised our design by stating that it exceeded his expectations.