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Koret Fellowship Program

Angel Barranco
Angel Barranco

Mechanical Engineering major, Class of 2018

My fellowship included conducting undergraduate research in the field of aerospace engineering; more specifically, in orbital mechanics. A brief background on our work, pico-satellites have been receiving more and more interests for the past decade; a pico-satellite is any satellite that weighs less than 200 grams and has a surfaces area of about 0.1 m2. The growth in interest in these satellites is mainly due to the many applications in which they can be used for. For example, they can used for research, telecommunications, or spying.

The research dealt with swarms – sometimes composed of thousands of these tiny cube satellites – that are designed for missions of 500 orbits or more. Having a swarm of pico-satellites possesses many pros for space missions. The biggest one being that the flying formation could be used to create an enormous antenna with a diameter larger than 1 kilometer, which would have more power than normal satellite antennas.

The major success of my research, however, was completing the Matlab simulation (pictured above), for a 500-orbit mission with the goal of acquiring information about the motion of a 700-pico-satellite swarm, and get results from it. But as one success was achieved, another major challenge arose. After the simulation was completed, the focused shifted to creating a fuzzy control that was going to make control the motion of the swarm for the entire length of the mission to minimize the number of collisions between spacecraft.

The impact that this research had on deciding what I wanted to do as a career path was significant. Through this research I was able to exercise my interest for creating computer models and simulations. I am now confident that I want to have a profession where I am designing or simulation physical phenomena on a computer.

The converted files will be shared with the community of researchers and scientists, hoping this will trigger more advancements and improvements in aerospace. This will not only benefit the discipline of aerospace, but it will also make SCU’s engineering programs more prestigious by being pioneers in this subject.