Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Departmental Honors


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

Jeremy J. Redel


Jeremy J. Redel


R. E. Jeall


The Firebird spacecraft is a space mission to gather scientific and physical data on the effects of atmospheric deceleration, commonly called aerobraking. The objective of the Firebird mission is to measure specified aerobraking parameters over a range of reentry velocities to provide a database sufficient to construct and validate mathematical models of such aerobraking mission maneuvers. The Firebird senior design team designed the first spacecraft in the mission series to look at aerobraking at an altitude of 160 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. This paper looks specifically at the design of the subsystem that provides the guidance, navigation, and control of the Firebird spacecraft. The final GN&C design consists of an inertially oriented, spin-stabilized configuration with a spin rate of 25 revolutions per minute. The major disturbance torques on the spacecraft were analyzed and estimated. Firebird is a major-axis spinner, which means that the disturbance torques encountered may cause some wobbling but will not cause the spacecraft to tumble. Two instruments, a sun sensor and a magnetometer, have been selected for determining the position of the spacecraft and directing navigational maneuvers. Such maneuvers, including initial detumble and spin-up, will be performed by the guidance thrusters positioned on the bottom of the spacecraft. This design of the guidance, navigation, and control subsystem meets all upper level requirements of the Firebird spacecraft.