SCU Cube

Date of Award


Document Type



Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2017.


Mechanical Engineering; Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Christopher A. Kitts

Second Advisor

Michael Taylor


Traditional forms of communication such as landlines and cell phones are unreliable during disaster scenarios. It is difficult to coordinate relief efforts in the aftermath of a disaster due to the unavailability of reliable communication methods. The SCUCube is a 3U CubeSat designed to aid disaster relief communications. The satellite has an amateur radio primary payload that can send and receive standardized data packets with compatible radios, and also has an experimental attitude control system secondary payload. The semi-passive attitude control system uses a gravity gradient boom and a reaction wheel to stabilize the orientation of the satellite. In addition, the satellite uses 3D printed and aluminum components for internal mounting features. The satellite also implements legacy work from previous Santa Clara University senior projects, including an outer structural design, a solar panel design, a distributed computing system, and an electronic power board design. SCUCube’s communication payload has demonstrated the capability to send and receive standard AX.25 data packets, as well as store messages for later downlink. Individual subsystems on the satellite have been designed, assembled and tested, and are currently integrated with one another in a ‘Flat satellite’ testing configuration. In addition, structural testing has been completed to determine if the system will survive launch. Before it may be launched, the satellite needs to be assembled in flight configuration and tested to ensure that subsystems behave as anticipated. SCUCube will provide vital communications services once it is launched, and will also test an experimental attitude control system.