Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering

Committee Director

Sharan Asundi

Committee Member

Drew Landman

Committee Member

Resit Unal


When space programs launch vehicles into orbit, multiple failures could arise throughout the mission and corrective actions are often not an option. Applying reliability engineering approaches during the design phase focuses on analyzing risk by anticipating potential failures and mitigating uncertainties in the design. Old Dominion University, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology designed and developed a 3U CubeSat mission to validate on-orbit, three space technology payloads. Mission SeaLion will fly as a secondary payload on stage two of Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket and will be deployed in a very low Earth orbit the spring of 2023.

Mission SeaLion will have multiple custom-built components on-board that have no space flight history that includes the Interface Board, Electrical Power System, and deployable composite structure payload. Custom-built components are a much higher risk to mission SeaLion when compared to space proven commercial off-the-shelf components. Engineering students at universities rarely have hands-on engineering experience in the field. Experts at NASA Langley Research Center provided guidance with identifying potential failure modes for the custom-built components. The potential risks of failures were evaluated using the Failure Mode, Effects and Criticality Analysis in efforts to increase the reliability of mission SeaLion. Mitigation strategies for each potential failure mode will include either a redesign or functionality, vibration, and vacuum chamber testing. Applying redesigns to the printable circuit board, battery pack, electrical connectors, and implementing rigorous inspection criteria significantly increased the reliability of the electrical systems. Execution of test plans using a thermal vacuum chamber will simulate space condition, which will verify deployment of the payload and ensure that electrical components function as designed.