Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

First Advisor

Koorosh Naghshineh

Second Advisor

Kristina Lemmer


CubeSats are compact, relatively inexpensive satellites that are often used for space research. In order to perform research related to electric propulsion devices, the Western Aerospace Launch Initiative (WALI) requires a medium-sized CubeSat capable of separating into two bodies while in orbit. Intentional separation is not common in CubeSats, so two original concepts were designed and simulated using 3D CAD and finite element analysis software. These designs were compared based on factors including weight, cost, size, and their potential to fail due to creation of debris or binding between components, in order to determine which will more effectively execute the mission. Of the two alternatives, the design incorporating an off-the shelf release mechanism was recommended. However, if the pin-puller design is used, much more testing is required to qualify it for space. A prototype of the pin-puller design was constructed and evaluated using a pendulum testing procedure developed specifically for the WALI CubeSat. This method was adequate for approximating the linear separation velocity of the two satellites. For greater precision, air table testing is recommended.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access