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.
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
- 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?
- A wire, usually a few meters long, connecting a pair of spacecraft
- Current conducted through this wire and the magnetic field of the Earth interact to produce a force that can be used for propellantless propulsion 
- Uses same basic phenomenon that allows electric motors to move and generate force
Why are electrodynamic tethers important?
- Propulsive technology that does not require fuel or propellant - such as an ED tether - offers the ability to overcome atmospheric drag and lengthen mission lifetimes
- Propellantless propulsion allows for formations of picosats and femtosats to be dynamically maneuvered and reconfigured many times
- ED tether experiences a naturally occurring torque that tends to passively align it vertically, giving the pair of tethered satellites a stable orientation
- ED tethers can also be used for harvesting electrical energy from the orbit, allowing for propellantless, self-powered deorbiting 
Objective: prove out the electrodynamic tether concept in the space environment
- We are planning and executing a space mission in collaboration with Pennsylvania State University that will demonstrate the capabilities of an ED tether
- We want to better understand the physical dynamics (movement) and electrodynamics (how currents flow through the conducting tether and generate thrust) fundamental to an ED tether system’s operation
- Miniature ED tethers could allow us to unlock the potential of picosats and femtosats: large, space-based antenna arrays , monitoring of natural disasters and space weather, and controllable fleets of large numbers of satellites
 Bell, I., “Electrodynamic Tethers for ChipSats and Nanospacecrafts,” 11th Spacecraft Charging Technology Conference, Albuquerque, NM: 2010.
 I. C. Bell, “Miniature Electrodynamic Tethers to Enhance Picosatellite and Femtosatellite Capabilities,” in 28th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Logan, Utah, 2014.
 Janson, S., and Barnhart, D., “The Next Little Thing: Femtosatellites,” AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Aug. 2013.
Bell, I., “Miniature Electrodynamic Tethers to Enhance Picosatellite and Femtosatellite Capabilities,” AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Logan, UT, Aug. 2014.
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.
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.
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.
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.