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MIE students collaborate with Fermilab on an “out-of-this-world” project

MIE students at Fermi National Laboratory

Some senior design projects don’t go beyond Expo. However, a group of students from the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering are working with Fermi National Laboratory on a project that will go much further. In fact, it’s slated to be launched into space.

Team 29, which is made up of Alexander Bulger, David Laczak, Eloise de Castelnau, Jose Luis Salinas, and Christopher James, is working with Fermilab, a laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics, to develop a thermal vacuum chamber testing station for the CubeSat (small satellite) program.

“The team has been tasked with retrofitting a pre-existing vacuum chamber, and implementing a heating/cooling system that is automated and can cycle through the target temperatures of -100°C to 100°C,” Bulger explained. “Utilizing the engineering design process of creating function means trees, metrics, house of quality (HOQ) and methods, the project has all design aspects considered and communicated to Fermilab, satisfying Fermilab’s criteria and safety requirements.”

The final design will utilize an existing cryocooler for cooling, mica heating pads for heating, a custom shroud for even heat dispersion, and a Raspberry Pi system for data control and collection. When all of the systems are implemented together, they will test and validate the future CubeSats for Fermilab’s program.

The project is an extension of the research that Castelnau performed during a summer program at Fermilab in 2018.