COPPER: Payload

COPPER: Payload


Active Members - Spring 2012

Steve Massey


Active Members - Fall 2011

Steve Massey

Nidaa Bogiss

Gauri Nijsure

Dylan Jones


The COPPER Payload project has the goal of developing a satellite payload for the expressed purpose of taking low-cost infrared images on-orbit. The payload must integrate into the COPPER spacecraft, currently in development at the Space Systems Research Lab of Parks College.

For the past 15 months, Steve Massey has been working on COPPER Payload under Dr. Kyle Mitchell (ECE) and Dr. Michael Swartwout (AE/ME) as an independent study.

There is a hard deadline of mid-April for satellite delivery. This corresponds with the date COPPER is handed over from Saint Louis University to California Polytechnic Institute for further testing integration with the launch vehicle.This also conveniently corresponds with the 2011-2012 Senior Design cycle. 

This project is partially funded by the Missouri Space Grant Consortium (MOSGC) and the Air Force Research Labs (AFRL). 

System Overview and Previous Development

Presented is an overview of the COPPER Payload project. For the purpose of senior design development a short and broadly defined plan is presented.

FIGURE 1 shows a bare-minimum COPPER spacecraft, identifying major requirements and connections. Such a spacecraft will be able to communicate with a SLU-hosted ground station, and control the imaging subsystem to perform tasks defined.

Identified in FIGURE 1 are the C&DH and Imaging subsystems. Note that C&DH stands for Command and Data Handling, and, while outside the scope of this project, will handle all off COPPER’s on-orbit maintenance tasks and communicate with the ground station.

This project is scoped to complete the parts identified within the Imaging Subsystem.

Within the Imaging Subsystem, are presented the following four bare minimum modules:     

  • Camera-to-FPGA interface    
  • Data storage-to-FPGA interface    
  • Microcontroller-to-FPGA interface    
  • FPGA dataflow governor  

These modules are displayed in FIGURE 2.

Essentially the payload must, when requested by the microcontroller, store information from the camera and subsequently save it to its own data storage. In addition, the microcontroller must be able to request previously-stored data for its own usage. An internal governor (possibly a state machine or soft processor core) will manage the flow of data from component to component. 

As of the writing of this document, the COPPER Payload is in a partially developed state. 15 months of development has resulted in standalone versions of the following:     

  • Camera-to-FPGA interface and associated tech demo    
  • Camera-to-Flash Storage interface, minimal functionality

Another 7 months of development is required and allocated, which puts final delivery mid-April, which lines up appropriately with Senior Design.

For the most up-to-date information, please visit the official project website.