Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering


Dr. Pauline Faure

Advisor Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


With the rise of CubeSats and the demonstration of their many space applications, there is interest in interplanetary CubeSats to act for example as scientific investigations or communications relays. In line with the increasing demand for this class of small satellites, the Cal Poly CubeSat Lab (CPCL) seeks to develop a bus that could support an interplanetary science payload. To facilitate this, a mission concept to conduct science of the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, is investigated by determining the mission needs for a CubeSat in a Phobos-Deimos cycler orbit through the development of a baseline design to meet mission objectives. This baseline design is then compared by subsystem to CPCL’s current capabilities to identify technology, facility, and knowledge gaps and recommend a path forward to close them. The resulting baseline design is a 16U bus capable of transferring from an initial low Mars orbit to a Phobos-Deimos cycler orbit using a combined chemical and electric propulsion system. The bus is designed for a 3.5 year mission lifetime collecting radiation data and images, utilizing a relay architecture to downlink payload data. Estimates for mass, volume, and power available for an additional payload are up to 2.3 kg in ~4U with power consumption up to 13 to 38 W. This baseline requires further iteration due to non-closure of the thermal protection subsystem and improvement of other subsystems but serves as a starting point for exploration into CPCL’s next steps in becoming an interplanetary bus provider. Major subsystem areas identified for hardware performance improvement within CPCL are propulsion, communications, power, and mechanisms.