The metrics of spacecraft design reusability and cost analysis as applied to CubeSats
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The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) Satellite Design Lab (SDL) is currently designing two 3U CubeSat spacecraft – Bevo-2 and ARMADILLO – which serve as the foundation for the design reusability and cost analysis of this thesis. The thesis explores the reasons why a small satellite would want to incorporate a reusable design and the processes needed in order for this reusable design to be implemented for future projects. Design and process reusability reduces the total cost of the spacecraft, as future projects need only alter the components or documents necessary in order to create a new mission. The thesis also details a grassroots approach to determining the total cost of a 3U CubeSat satellite development project and highlights the costs which may be considered non-recurring and recurring in order to show the financial benefit of reusability. The thesis then compares these results to typical models used for cost analysis in industry applications. The cost analysis determines that there is a crucial gap in the cost estimating of nanosatellites which may be seen by comparing two widely-used cost models, the Small Satellite Cost Model (SSCM <100 kg) and the NASA/Air Force Cost Model (NAFCOM), as they apply to a 3U CubeSat project. While each of these models provides a basic understanding of the elements which go into cost estimating, the Cost Estimating Relationships (CERs) do not have enough historical data of picosatellites and nanosatellites (<50 kg) to accurately reflect mission costs. Thus, the thesis documents a discrepancy between widely used industry spacecraft cost models and the needs of the picosatellite and nanosatellite community, specifically universities, to accurately predict their mission costs. It is recommended to develop a nanosatellite/CubeSat cost model with which university and industry developers alike can determine their mission costs during the designing, building and operational stages. Because cost models require the use of many missions to form a database, it is important to start this process now at the beginning of the nanosatellite/CubeSat boom.