Project Overview  |  Proof of Concept  |  Final Design  |  Fabrication  |  Testing and Results  |  Meet the Team  |  Acknowledgements

Project Overview

Currently, if you want to do atmospheric research, you are limited in the range you can collect data. The limit is due to the range of weather balloons, which are the most commonly used vehicle for getting data sensing equipment into the upper atmosphere. Weather balloons are limited in how high they can go because the balloons rupture due to the low  atmospheric pressure at high elevations. This means climate scientists cannot collect data in the upper mesosphere. Cubic Atmos proposes using a cubesat that can be deployed from a rocket at the desired altitude, and glide through the upper atmosphere to collect data. The cubesat platform will provide users with space to include the sensors and data acquisition hardware required for atmospheric research. The platform will also be designed to be both recoverable and reusable, unlike weather balloons.

Cubic Atmos is producing a product for the atmospheric research field. The customer for products in this field are primarily research institutions and national laboratories. Conducting high altitude experiments in the upper stratosphere and mesosphere right now is limited to sounding rockets operated by government organizations such as NASA and the ESA. The Rockets are only able to collect minimal data as the quickly ascend and descend through the data collection zone. The most common vessel used to transport atmospheric science is the weather balloon, which is limited in altitude due to the materials which they can be made from. Their max altitude is around 40 km with current technologies.


Proof of Concept

Cubic Atmos’ proof of concept is a system for a CubeSat that can succeed in creating flight at a normal elevation and atmospheric pressure. By achieving this, the system should be able to create enough drag at a much higher elevation and lower pressure to reduce its falling velocity. The proof of concept test for Cubic Atmos will be deploying the system on the CubeSat at ground level and measuring the lift produced by the system. By assuming that the lift produced by a system at varying pressures acts linearly, Cubic Atmos can determine at what elevations the CubeSat can collect data at while successfully reducing its falling velocity. Cubic Atmos hopes to prove that a CubeSat can be created that can be launched from a rocket and slow its descent long enough to record meaningful atmospheric data at varying elevations.



Final design

The product design specification for the Cubic Atmos’ CubeSat for Atmospheric Research (CAR) are as follows: the cubesat will be in a 3U format, which is 10cm x 10cm x 30cm, the mass of CAR will not exceed 4.0 kg, and the payload will be powered by a lipo battery. The frame of the CAR will be constructed out of carbon fiber and aluminium. The thermal expansion of the materials on the CAR structure will have negligible effect on the CAR performance. The CAR will have Cubic Atmos labelling logo on the CAR’s structure. The CAR utilizes a cubesat frame to house both instrumentation, power, and the Descent Control Mechanism. The Descent Control Mechanism consists of four arms that are nested inside of the CAR. The arms are equipped with electric motors and propellers at the ends. Upon deployment, the arms will fold out into the configuration of a quadcopter. The motors will come on when the cubesat reaches the altitude specified by the user. The CAR will then begin a controlled descent back to the launch site. The user can then collect their data, and if they want, launch the cubesat again. The purpose of the CAR is to provide to potential customers interested in atmospheric research a reusable, customizable research platform that is effective at a height greater than that reached by weather balloons . The CAR will be a useful product for customers performing atmospheric research in that it will provide an increase in data collection duration while providing an effective range greater than that of a typical weather balloon and radiosonde.






The CubeSat for Atmospheric Research (CAR) is composed of an arduino, flight controller, motors, speed controllers, and propellers which are commercial sourced products and don’t need to be manufactured. The major manufactured parts for the CAR are eight support brackets, four sliding rails, the top and bottom plate, arms, and ends. The sliding rails are manufactured by cutting quarter inch square stock with a hack saw and dimensioning and surfacing the ends with a belt sander. The support brackets are manufactured by cutting rectangular stock and then finishing the part on a CNC mill. The top and bottom plate, ends, and arms are cnc milled out of a piece of carbon fiber.




Testing and Results

The Circuit completion test checked the validity of the electronics to work together, and that the device turned on without incident. We had an initial failure of an Electronic Speed Controller that resulted in a spare needing got be implemented, however after that was completed, all electronics worked as expected. The take-off test determined if the vehicle was able to produce enough lift to take off from the ground. Even though this is not a requirement of the vehicle, this is used by our group to determine the validity of the craft to produce enough lift at operational altitude. As seen in the video below, this test worked as expected. The testing performance shows that our product can meet the design specifications previously discussed.


Meet the Team




Mohammad Alhuwayer is an international student from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He is a senior mechanical engineering student, and his expected graduation date is Fall 2018. Upon the completion of his program, Alhuwayer plans on taking a year off and travelling more internationally. After that, he plans to work in the aerospace industry as a control systems engineer. Alhuwayer’s passion for engineering started when he was young. He had the curiosity to learn how things function, operate and maneuver. During his academic career, Alhuwayer developed and improved different skills such as coding, interpersonal communications and deriving results.






Matthew Hendrickson is from Reno, Nevada. Matthew Hendrickson has been a part of numerous engineering design projects and has earned his Eagle Scout award. As part of a community service project, Matthew designed a walkway for students at a local elementary school that would cover a boulder pit. The design and building process took approximately 200 man hours, all of which was done voluntarily. Matthew’s goal is to finish his bachelor degree in mechanical engineering which he expects to have finished in Fall of 2018. Following his graduation, Matthew plans on applying for a position as a systems engineer at a local company, ideally working for Sierra Nevada Corporation or Tesla.



Kaleipuakea Meyer was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Kalei became interested in engineering through his participation in the FIRST robotics competition, where his team advanced to the FIRST championship in St. Louis, Missouri. Kalei came to the University of Nevada in order to pursue his degree in mechanical engineering while also playing football for the Wolf Pack. After graduating with a bachelors in mechanical engineering in the spring of 2018, Kalei plans to earn an MBA through the College of Engineering’s BS-MBA program.






Justin Patridge is the Structures Lead for the University of Nevada Rocketry Society and the Chair of the UNR Chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He has designed a variety of rockets for the Rocketry Society throughout his college career and is currently working on an undergraduate research project for an improved payload development method. He is from Placerville, California and is expecting to graduate May 2018. He is planning to work in the Aerospace Industry as a structures engineer after graduation.









Jason was born and raised in Reno, NV. He graduated from Reno High School and is completing his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. After graduation, Jason intends to go work in the autonomous vehicle industry.