CULLEN COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering

News

ECE Launches Small Satellite Research Program

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

By: 

Toby Weber

Thanks to seed funding provided by the Cullen College of Engineering, electrical and computer engineering faculty members Ji Chen and David Jackson have launched a research program to develop antennas for small satellites.

Small satellites are generally classified as those that weigh less than 500 lbs. Compared to their larger counterparts, they are less expensive to build and to launch into orbit. These cost factors make it practical to operate multiple satellites in coordination, providing the benefit of redundancy: if one is damaged or malfunctions, others can pick up the slack.

Antennas remain one of the challenges to the use and reliability of small satellites, however. Most small satellites rely on antennas that are mechanically deployed after launch. These mechanical systems can easily become damaged during launch, Chen said, making the entire satellite essentially worthless.

Chen and Jackson, then, are working to develop antennas that can be etched directly onto the solar cells that power these satellites.  “We don’t want any moving parts,” said Chen. “By etching an antenna on a solar cell, we can make it rigid. There’s no mechanical deployment.”

The actual etching isn’t a challenge, noted Chen. The real work comes in finding the right patterns to etch in order to facilitate reliable communication among small satellites and between an individual satellite and earth.

Supported by data gathered through the college’s seed funding, Chen and Jackson are currently assembling proposals for external support.

In addition to his small satellite research, Chen is an established expert in the area of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). This field covers the effects of devices that emit electromagnetic radiation on the human body and explores how much electromagnetic radiation medical devices, such as pacemakers, can be safely exposed to.

Chen, in fact, represents UH in an National Science Foundation-funded center that also includes Clemson University and Missouri University of Science and Technology. The group, which has received about $1 million from the NSF during the past five years, develops solutions to EMC-related challenges and produces reports on the electromagnetic properties of various products and devices. Companies that provide the group with financial support include electronics device makers like Apple and Huawei, as well as medical device manufacturers like Cyberonics, Biotronik and St. Jude’s Medical.

Faculty: 

Department: 

Centers/Programs: 

Related News Stories

PHOTOS: 2017 Engineering Homecoming Celebration

Joseph Tedesco (right), Dean of the Cullen College, poses with his wife Sue (middle) and Nayeli Martinez, a member of the UH Society of Automotive Engineers

Students, faculty, alumni and friends of the UH Cullen College of Engineering gathered for breakfast tacos, drinks and games to celebrate the 2017 Engineering Homecoming and gear up for the UH Football game against East Carolina. 

In addition to catching up with old friends, attendees enjoyed mimosas and Bloody Marys provided by the Engineering Alumni Association and entered to win raffle prizes that were announced throughout the event.

UH Launches Institute for Data Science

Andrea Prosperetti

Institute Will Draw Partnerships to Focus on Energy, Health Care, Cybersecurity, Smart Cities

The University of Houston has launched a new Institute for Data Science, naming Andrea Prosperetti, Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering at the Cullen College, to lead the venture.