Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

Stephen A. Whitmore


Stephen A. Whitmore


David Geller


Geordie Richards


Within the past decade, the United States Air Force has begun exploring options for using smaller satellites, known as SmallSats and CubeSats, to decrease the time it takes to design and build new satellites. If used properly, a rapid development environment for satellites could improve the Air Force's ability to respond to new technologies and threats. Other organizations such as NASA and universities have been using SmallSats and CubeSats for research and development missions.

While smaller satellites are usually much cheaper to develop and require less time to create, limited volume strictly constrains the size of instrumentation and avionics that they can house. This size limitation especially inhibits optical Earth observation (cameras) and communication equipment. A camera with a larger aperture and light sensor can capture more light, allowing it to take better pictures. Communications equipment generally works better with larger antennas. A potential solution for SmallSats and CubeSats is to put them in a lower orbit. The closer a satellite is to the ground, the easier it will be for it to take pictures and communicate with ground stations. However, using lower orbits also creates the problem of increased air resistance.

To counter atmospheric drag, the satellite could include a small rocket motor. This thesis investigates using a "green" hybrid propulsion that has been developed by the USU Propulsion Research Laboratory. The hybrid motor is paired with a closed-loop controller to provide automatic control. A trajectory simulation was developed to study the performance of multiple closed-loop control options. The results of the trajectory simulation and a best-approach analysis are presented. System sizing estimates are also presented.