Former NASA person trying to small spacecraft projects to FIRST

Hello everyone. My name is Jeff. I was introduced to FIRST by two interns I had at JPL over the last few summers. For the past six months I have been trying to start a non-profit to make cubesat - small cubical spacecraft about 10cm on each side - projects available to high schools.

Today I met a person connected to Dean Kamen who suggested that I try to work with FIRST to make this happen. I asked my two former interns how best to reach the FIRST community and they suggested I post here.

To show you a bit more about me, here are the two most exciting things I was involved with at NASA:

2012 project:

2014 project:

and here is the website for my non-profit initiative:

I’m posting this for a few reasons: 1. to gain a sense of the level of interest in potential small spacecraft projects, and 2. to excite the community in order to show FIRST management that this project is worth pursuing.

I’d love to get your thoughts on the idea.

Thank you,


I am very, very interested and excited about participating in such a project.

I have had my sight on working in the aerospace/newspace industry since 3rd grade and I have been working towards that goal as much as possible with the resources available to me. I have been involved in the FIRST community for 3 years now (FTC then FRC at my high school) and I can say for sure that some of the other students from my school would also be extremely interested (I can name several off the top of my head that are also interested in going in the aerospace industry).
I have a lot of experience in terms of FIRST robotics but little that would be directly applicable for satellites or in the newspace industry so this is the perfect opportunity that I have been looking and waiting for!

Are you taking applications to participate on this project or is it still in the developmental stage?

  • Lewis J

This sounds like an incredible opportunity. I currently go to school in Indiana, so work at the JPL might not be the most ideal thing for me during the school year, but I would absolutely love to work on this project. What sort of involvement were you looking for from FIRST-ers? I’d love to help in whatever way I can.

Hi Jeff,

My FIRST team (696) is located in La Crescenta, not far from JPL. Our previous instructor wanted to get a cube sat project together, and we have some training materials and electronics. I’d love to discuss more with you in person. Let’s get in touch. Send me a private message.


Your previous work looks amazing. :smiley:
This seems like a great idea. I was wondering though, were you planning on designing the satellites and have high schoolers program them, or have FIRST alumni work on it…? A bit more in-depth detail would be nice, whenever you get it.

I was on a team working on a cubesat constellation. We have a series of courses at AFIT dedicated to cubesat design. First quarter was doing things like developing a SysML model (following INCOSE and NASA SE Handbook), developing the CONOPS, deriving requirements, and basically doing feasibility studies and stuff like that. The second quarter (which I didn’t do), was taking those projects and taking them further to actually develop a more refined model (including CAD). The third quarter is about actually manufacturing and testing an engineering unit. From then on, if funded, it goes to creating a launch model and will get launched. Typical budget was $500k per satellite and $1M per satellite for launch.

Lewis: There is no application or anything like that yet. Right now I want to gauge interest and get to a point where I can show Dean that this program is worth doing and is doable, and then reach out to corporate sponsors to make it happen. The absolute best way to help make this happen is to get as many replies on this thread showing interest - ideally we would crash the forum system. That will get their attention.

pmangles/asid61: The idea is initially to have students assemble cubesat kits. That’s as simple as it’s going to get, and that will still be a significant challenge. Going forward I’d like to expand to hardware and mission design, but first we have to have a few successes with a kit.

sanddrag: I no longer live near JPL, but I can set up a meeting with JPL people if you want to get a tour.

Michael Hill: that is more or less the idea, but with somewhat less complexity given the high school age group, the 1 year timeline, and a lower budget. We can get launch for free though probably.

All, the absolute best thing you can do for now to help make this happen is share this post and get other people to comment. Once there are 1000 replies I can start talking up the management chain.

You might want to make a google survey instead of waiting on 1000 replies. While chief delphi is a decently sized community, I have only seen a couple threads break 1000 replies and it certainly didn’t happen over night.

Just wondering, will this be availible nationwide or is it restricted to a certain area? Very interested btw.

This would be a super cool thing to have as an option for FIRST teams - quite a few of us (myself very much included) are space nerds, so to build something to fly in space would be awesome.

Definitely, especially since it’s after the season, not very many people check chief delphi. Sorry, but even if everyone who saw this thread on the front page commented, that would still never break 100.

Well we are a 100th of the way there…

I forwarded this to my old team in MN. I think someone else already asked, but do you envision this program being available anywhere, or only in specific areas? I imagine that transporting satellites safely could be an issue.

Yeah and I’m guessing that there would have to be several different project locations. Or maybe this could be next year’s game :wink:

If I am successful in starting this, there would probably be one or at most two pilot projects in the first year to show that it can be done. As to the location of those, I have no clue, but probably in an area near me (Washington, D.C. metro area.)

Even if there are only a few building sites there should probably be more training sites or maybe even an online training course for those interested.

Hi Jeff,

I’m still not completely clear on what your goal is here. Are you trying to find interest among members of FIRST programs to join as users/members of a Cubesat design team? Support roles for the nonprofit itself? Gauge interest in building a FIRST-sponsored Cubesat?

I’ll send you a PM as I would like to discuss more of what you have in mind, especially the broad audience education aspect.

From what I can tell it is all three.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the forum crash, and right now it’s summer, so many teams aren’t meeting. That being said, it sounds like a really cool project. Outer space is always cool!

I’ve seen it bog WAAAAAYYYYYY down, though. On Kickoff, when everybody was scrambling for “what did we just get ourselves into”. Before the server upgrades that allow Brandon to pull in extra resources happened (read: back when Kickoff server boosts were to put the server in a bulletproof case to contain the explosion to just the CD server :wink: ).

Haven’t seen that in a few years, though.