Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Robert A. Bettinger, PhD


With disposable equipment on board, the emphasis on structural strength and robust thermal protection system (TPS) pales for a conventional satellite in comparison to reentry capsules, which are specifically designed to withstand the intense aerothermodynamic effects experienced during reentry. In this research, six degree-of-freedom (6DOF) analyses of three distinct non-aerodynamic satellite bus configurations were performed with emphasis on the investigation of their terminal reentry characteristics, and thermal and deceleration loading on the satellite body. Aeroelastic effects on their respective solar panel structures were also analyzed focusing on characterizing bending stress at their attachment/deployment mechanism. It was found that the Terra satellite simulation case with initial flight-path angle of πœ™π‘’=βˆ’3 experienced the highest level of heat loading at 3709.0 kW/m2 among the three configurations, which was over twice the critical heat flux value of 1800 kW/m2 set as a benchmark for thermomechanical breakup. For the PEARL 3U CubeSat, the πœ™π‘’=βˆ’10Β° case produced the greatest magnitude of deceleration loading at approximately 20.8 g's, which is just under the reference centrifugal acceleration limit of 23 g’s, but its solar panels did not experience a great level of stress due to their lightweight nature. Rather, the highest stress value of 748.8 MPa, which exceeds AA7068 alloy's ultimate tensile strength value of 641 MPa, was observed at the attachment point of the HST's solar panels at 60 km altitude with initial πœ™π‘’=βˆ’10Β°. The altitudes at which the maximum or critical deceleration and heat loading values occurred for all satellite configurations in this research were mostly within the traditionally defined demise region of 50 km to 90 km altitude. Flutter within the solar panels were also examined but no flutter modes were found since the reentry environment is likely too extreme to cause the structures to vibrate according to their natural frequencies.

AFIT Designator



Approved for public release, 88ABW-2022-0411.

4. SF 298 - Byun.pdf (297 kB)
SF298 form for AFIT-ENY-MS-22-M-282