Satellite Payload Design

Bringing freeze casting research to space in a small satellite. Press Article

This is an exciting project I worked on through a NASA-funded grant at Northwestern. I led a team to bring freeze casting to the microgravity environment of space. Freeze casting is a novel way of manufacturing metal, by using the shape of ice crystals to give structure to metallic particles ( learn more about it here). As lead engineer, I designed the system payload, which consisted of optically clear sample containers and a system of mirrors and cameras to image the samples during the solidification process.

Design Constraints

1) 10cm x 10cm x 10cm workspace
2) -70C to -4C temperature range
3) optically transparent, sealed sample containers

The critical system of the payload was the sample container. I had to design a vessel that was sealed to prevent offgassing, optically transparent for imaging, conductive for heat transfer, resistant to extreme vibration at launch, and have materials that can withstand high thermal cycling without damage. The final design featured a Pyrex and Kovar tube (Kovar has the same CTE as Pyrex), Teflon bushings for thermal insulation, thermistors for temperature control, and aluminum mirrors to prevent shattering during launch. We presented this design in a critical design review with NASA.