About Our Team

MiTEE is a series of CubeSat projects run by students at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and overseen by Prof. Brian Gilchrist. MiTEE is a part of the University of Michigan's Multidisciplinary Design Program, where students of different backgrounds and disciplines can contribute to research teams led by faculty.

MiTEE is split up into two missions. The first, MiTEE - I, will collect current-voltage electron characteristics of a picosatellite (smartphone-size) end-body deployed using a 1 meter long fixed-boom system.

The second, MiTEE - II, will study the electrodynamics of a tethered picosatellite end-body and evaluate the use of a tether as an antenna. Ultimately, MiTEE - II will evaluate dynamics and control of a tethered end-body deployed system.

Team Organization

MiTEE is a team of undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. students from a variety of majors. Our team is composed of several subsystems, which are each responsible for different parts of the satellite's design, and a systems team, which is comprised of the subsystem leads and team management. Our six subsystems are: Command and Data Handling, Communications, Electrical Power Systems, Orbit and Attitude Determination and Controls, Plasma, and Structures. See our Members page to find a listing of each of our dedicated team members and the work they do for their subsystem.

Command and Data Handling (CDH)

  • Handles spacecraft control, task execution, and error management
  • Uses “hub-and-spoke” architecture that relies on multiple microprocessors to execute sub-system-level tasks

Communications (COMMS)

  • Designs and implements communication architecture between satellite and ground stations
  • Responsible for maintenance and operation of the Climate and Space Research Building (CSRB) Ground Station facilities

Electrical Power Systems (EPS)

  • Devises methods to generate, store, condition, and distribute power to all on-board systems
  • Characterizes and refines primary distribution board
  • Designs solar panels with embedded circuitry
  • Develops high-voltage converters used to bias the anode and cathode systems

Orbits, Attitude Determination, and Control (OADCS)

  • Designs, tests, and integrates software and hardware systems that determine satellite orientation and rotation rate
  • Develop the flight software that executes the 'B-dot algorithm' onboard the microcontrollers


  • Designs the plasma electrodynamics system
  • Plasma electrodynamics system maintains current flowing through the electrodynamic (ED) tether during thrusting, and includes diagnostics instruments to characterize ambient plasma around spacecraft
  • Primary electrodes include the anode, biased positively with respect to the spacecraft, and cathode, biased negatively, that collect and emit electrons respectively
  • Langmuir probe used to measure ambient plasma characteristics before and after thrusting


  • Designs, tests, and constructs the structure and mechanisms of the CubeSat
  • Responsible for the deployment of the monopole antenna arrays and the Langmuir probe science instrument
  • Antenna array deployment system uses a simple burn resistor mechanism with antennae tied down to spacecraft's sides
  • Langmuir probe deployment system uses a spring release mechanism embedded onto the structure panels

Mission Background and Overview

What is an electrodynamic (ED) tether?

Why are electrodynamic tethers important?

Objective: prove out the electrodynamic tether concept in the space environment


[1] Bell, I., “Electrodynamic Tethers for ChipSats and Nanospacecrafts,” 11th Spacecraft Charging Technology Conference, Albuquerque, NM: 2010.

[2] I. C. Bell, “Miniature Electrodynamic Tethers to Enhance Picosatellite and Femtosatellite Capabilities,” in 28th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Logan, Utah, 2014.

[3] Janson, S., and Barnhart, D., “The Next Little Thing: Femtosatellites,” AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Aug. 2013.

Conference Publications

Bell, I., “Miniature Electrodynamic Tethers to Enhance Picosatellite and Femtosatellite Capabilities,” AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Logan, UT, Aug. 2014. View

Bell, I., Gilchrist, B., McTernan, J., and Bilén, S., “Analyzing Miniature Electrodynamic Tether Propulsion Capabilities and the Interaction with the Low Earth Orbit-Plasma Environment,”International Electric Propulsion Conference, Washington, DC, Oct. 2013, IEPC-2013-373. View

Bell, I. C., Hagen, K., Singh, V., McCarty, S., Cutler, J, Gilchrist, B., McTernan, J. K., and Bilen, S. G., “Investigating Miniature Electrodynamic Tethers and Interaction with the Low Earth Orbit Plasma,” AIAA Space 2013, San Diego, CA, Sept. 2013. View

Bell, I., Gilchrist, B., Liaw, D., Singh, V., Hagen, K., Lu, C., Cutler, J., Bilén, S., and McTernan, J., “Investigating the Feasibility and Mission Enabling Potential of Miniaturized Electrodynamic Tethers for Femtosatellites and Other Ultra-small Satellites,” AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Logan, UT, Aug. 2013. View

Shastri et. al., "Exploring Potential of Electrodynamic Tethers and Developments in the Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment," AIAA/USU Small Satellite Workshop, Logan, UT, Aug. 2014. View