We’ve (briefly) discussed the leadership positions and the MAE roles, but most of the jobs in IPT aren’t really centered on the MAE disciplines. Here, we’re going to outline the responsibilities of all the other various engineering positions you may encounter as an IPT team member. To be honest, these jobs are both the hardest and the easiest to perform; we understand that you might not really know too much about solar panels and batteries when you get to class, so we’re not necessarily expecting the same level of detail that we will on the structural or propulsion systems. On the other hand, putting the most adaptable engineers on these jobs can really boost a team’s overall performance.
Systems Engineers are an exception to the general rule; while all the other engineers we’ve talked about work for the Chief Engineer, all the systems engineers work for the LSE. This position is only open to people in the ISE program. You’ll be working with the LSE to quantify the costs and risks associated with a mission design, helping to verify and maintain requirements, or maybe compiling the overall schedule of events (called a “concept of operations” or ConOps) from the schedules maintained by other engineers on the team.
- Responsible for analysis of cost data in mission design.
- Responsible for identification of mission risks including severity and likelihood of occurrence.
- Responsible for documentation of mitigation strategies.
- Responsible for development and maintenance of mission schedule, including launch date and mission critical events.
Power Engineers are responsible for keeping the satellite alive, making sure that enough electricity is available for all the tasks a satellite has to perform at a given time. This is a massively important position on the team; every system is going to have power requirements that must be met. The power engineer will select the type of power generator (nuclear reactors are sometimes an option), pick solar panels and batteries, and maintain the crucially important power budgets and power profiles for the entire mission.
- Responsible for design of power systems on spacecraft.
- Responsible for sizing of solar panels and batteries.
- Responsible for maintaining power budget and power profile throughout mission.
The communications system is currently one of the most complicated tasks on an IPT team – this isn’t necessarily because the work is hard, but the communications engineer will work closely with simulation personnel (either graduate research assistants attached to IPT or students in the UAH graduate modeling and simulation programs) to develop communications budgets. You’ll develop the main elements of the communications architecture, defining how the different parts of the mission talk to each other and to Earth. The communications link budgets and schedules give important information to the power engineers, GN&C engineers, and the scientists. An IPT communications engineer should be one of the most adaptable members of the team.
- Responsible for design of communications systems on spacecraft.
- Responsible for definition and description of grounds systems requirements throughout mission.
- Responsible for antenna selection and sizing.
- Responsible for maintaining communications link budgets and availability throughout mission.
Command, Data, and Handling Engineer (CD&H)
The CD&H engineer works closely with the communications engineer to size the computers and data storage devices on the spacecraft. In some teams, one person has handled both communications and CD&H responsibilities. The most important part of the CD&H engineer’s job is keeping the data budget – you’ll have to figure out how much data is being collected by telemetry and science instruments and match that to the link budgets of the communications engineer.
- Responsible for design of command telemetry and data handling on spacecraft.
- Responsible for sizing and selection of computers and data storage devices.
- Responsible for maintaining data acquisition and transmission budgets throughout mission.