The Space Systems Research Laboratory (SSRL) is an undergraduate research organization whose mission is to perform world-class research in the design, fabrication and operation of space systems, and to produce world-class space systems engineers.
What is Space Systems Engineering?
A space system consists of all of the elements necessary to complete a successful space mission: spacecraft, launch vehicle, ground operations, etc. For example, within the spacecraft, there are multiple discrete subsystems such as: Power (energy generation, energy storage, energy regulation), Command and Data Handling (flight software and code monkeys), Structures (keeping components from floating away and inside the spacecraft), RF Communications (data transfer from orbit-to-ground and ground-to-orbit), Payload (science!), and Systems (how do we fit everything in and make it all actually work?). By no means is that an inclusive list and the breakdown of elements necessary to complete a successful space mission carry over to the launch vehicle, ground operations, etc.
PHOTO OF SPACE SYSTEMS FROM SWART
Often, it is the behavior of the system as a whole that determines success or failure, not the optimal design of any one part. Furthermore, the hardware of a subsystem may function perfectly, but the interface between subsystems is often where a fault occurs. To reduce the risks of faults occurring, a fault analysis is required
EXAMPLE OF FAULT TABLE
At SSRL, our emphasis is on the end-to-end system; it informs our research activities as well as how we train our students. Our students are trained in a peer-to-peer system; learning from the experiences of those that have come before which allows new members to work one-on-one with veteran members.
Organization and Structure
SSRL is student managed to allow students to gain real world experience in managing demanding projects and how to coordinate with team members to better prepare them for industry. A student Program Manager is responsible for the success or failure of a program by producing a viable and functioning spacecraft within the time, cost, and system requirements. A student Chief Financial Officer manages the Program's funds. Students serve as engineering subsystem leads as they enter their junior or senior years, after acquiring extensive experience on prior projects, managing teams dedicated to a specific part of the spacecraft. Newer members typically float on different subsystem teams before choosing one in which to develop expertise.
Where We Go
SSRL provides outstanding experience for those who volunteer their time that sets our alums apart in the aerospace industry. Over 75% of our graduates are working in the public and private space sectors with the most recent classes at Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (Orbital ATK) and NASA. Furthermore, graduates have gone to SpaceX, The Aerospace Corporation, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing.