First week of fourth year means the start of the Honours project. I’ve thought about my topic before and done some quick preliminary research, but I now have to define my project properly, and start documenting the process, which is what that blog is for.

Project Ideas

I’m doing a computer science degree, and I want to go into the space industry after university. From there, I had written down a few project ideas over the summer:

  • Capsule Entry Guidance: investigate and write guidance software to steer a spacecraft from the moment it enters the atmosphere to the moment it deploys its parachutes (running in a simulation for obvious cost reasons!). The goal would be to bring the spacecraft within a reasonable target ellipse at around 10km altitude.

  • Spacecraft Terminal Guidance: same idea as above, but later in the EDL (Entry-Descent-Landing) sequence. The software would guide the spacecraft from the end of entry to touchdown, probably using gimballed engines and throttle control.

  • Planetary Reconnaissance: inspired by NASA’s plans to have a drone do terrain reconnaissance on the Mars 2020 rover. The idea would be to do systems and mission design for small, low-cost rockets that could be launched from a lander or rover. Once at apogee, the payload falls under a parachute and could beam “bird’s eye view” images and data to the rover.

  • Long-Range Communications: design the communication systems and software for low-budget, low-power payloads, like High-Altitude Balloons and NanoSats. This would involve investigating existing systems, implement (and potentially design) the protocol used to transmit data over long distance and create the software needed at both ends of the transmission (payload and ground station).


After a meeting with my lecturer, we’re leaning towards radio communications. while the other projects were interesting, this one will allow me to work with actual hardware, which I have never really done before. Plus, I have barely ever worked with radio and raw packet communications before, whereas I have done physics simulations and basic control loops in the past.

Going Forward

My plan for the next week or so (at least until the first scoping workshop) is to start researching similar projects and communication standards used in the industry to try and narrow down the subject.