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Monday, 5 December 2011

Wrapping up the school term: assignments, exams, final projects

I apologize for not completing this sooner, but I have been working very hard lately to get everything done, and done well.

I feel very elated right now. I am in the heart of it, still busy, but making progress and feeling good about it. So, what have I been up to?

Last Thursday and Friday, I worked on two reports that are due tomorrow. The first is the culminating report and presentation for my Payload Design class, in which my colleague and I designed a radiation detector for Mars. The second report was for my Mechanical Design course, in which we were designing the Magnetorquer.

Still putting the finishing touches on the reports, but the presentations are finished. I'll explain a little about each device and how it stands here and now:

The Mars Radiation Detector is a combination of instruments meant to observe, record, and analyze the radiation on the surface of Mars. To do so, our design includes: a telescopic lens, 4 silicon semiconductor detectors, and a plastic scintillator. For our design, and to save you reading the entirety of Wikipedia articles, the semiconductor works like a CCD camera, basically a grid of cells (pixels) which capture the radiation as it strikes the device. This radiation is converted to electricity which flows along the detector and the information about this energy is logged by a computer. The plastic scintillator works much the same way, but more like a Geiger counter. This is used to study any neutrons which strike the device. As they do, they excite the plastic, which lights up and information concerning this is guessed it, to the computer. We had to do a lot of research for this project, and we learned a lot not only about radiation, which was my choice for choosing the project, but we also learned about the instrumentation involved and what factors contributed to a good design. It was a good stepping stone for me, learning more about Mars, radiation, and the tools we use to work/understand our universe. I am very proud of how it turned out, and I am more confident about my choices and my designs. I want to especially thank my colleague, Natasha Gadkari, for her diligence, hard work, and constant motivation. Without Natasha, this project would be greatly lacking and I would not have enjoyed the process as I did.

For Mech design, the magnetorquer, which some of you may remember from my previous posts, is going well. We have come about as far as we can without assistance from the school/the YU Laboratory. We have completed a lot of materials research, and have brought this device very close to space-standards. Currently, we have a prototype, made of enameled magnet wire and stainless steel. It is less than 1 cm in diameter, and 7 cm in length. With this, we have requested the aid of our professor for testing. As our current design stands, it is both over performance and under cost. Further work needs to be done to test the device, and the exact method of mounting it to the frame of a small-satellite has yet to be resolved, but we are close. Additionally, at this stage, we believe the performance and mass requirements would be better met with the use of a material known as Permalloy. Unfortunately, this material is also quite expensive. However, we have simplified and shown that the implementation and manufacture processes are quite simple and inexpensive, so even with the purchase of custom ordered parts, we believe our magnetorquer will be less expensive than European parts and will still perform as expected. Anyway, tomorrow we present our prototype and I sincerely hope they are impressed and aid us in completing the process as it would be nice to contribute to a working satellite!

Other than that, I have exams, assignments, and lab reports due. Nothing too exciting, for the moment, on which to report, but lots for me to do. Thanks for reading, and I'll "see" you next time.

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