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= SSI Overload =  
== SSI Overload ==  
So you've joined [https://ssi-teams.slack.com/join] Slack, maybe gone to a meeting or two, but you're not sure what you can do or what there even is to do with so many teams swirling around? Well you've come to right place! Below are all the projects each team is working on, what skills they utilize or where they're especially looking for help, and who you can contact to jump in! Think of this like a jobs listing page except that the jobs are always available and you apply by poking the person of contact and saying you want the job -- and it's probably yours.
So you've joined [https://ssi-teams.slack.com/join] Slack, maybe gone to a meeting or two, but you're not sure what you can do or what there even is to do with so many teams swirling around? Well you've come to right place! Below are all the projects each team is working on, what skills they utilize or where they're especially looking for help, and who you can contact to jump in! Think of this like a jobs listing page except that the jobs are always available and you apply by poking the person of contact and saying you want the job -- and it's probably yours.

Revision as of 07:49, 30 September 2021

SSI Overload

So you've joined [1] Slack, maybe gone to a meeting or two, but you're not sure what you can do or what there even is to do with so many teams swirling around? Well you've come to right place! Below are all the projects each team is working on, what skills they utilize or where they're especially looking for help, and who you can contact to jump in! Think of this like a jobs listing page except that the jobs are always available and you apply by poking the person of contact and saying you want the job -- and it's probably yours.

As you can see from the length of this list, there will always be more SSI to do than you will have hours in a day, week, month, or year -- don't feel pressured to overextend yourself! If you have questions, are feeling overwhelmed, or just want to chat with someone, don't hesitate to reach out to a leadership member. SSI exists for, and because of, its members (that's you.) Your sanity, health, and overall well-being always come first.


Team Leads: SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}} 

In the Mars team, SSI’s newest venture, we believe that humanity is destined to move beyond Earth and settle the Solar System.  Our multidisciplinary work combines the fields of materials science, chemical engineering, civil engineering, economics, and anything else that helps our goals!  Whether you’re majoring in one of those fields or are undeclared, all you need to be a productive member of our team is a passion for interplanetary exploration.  This team is meant to be a great learning opportunity for all its members to become familiar with in situ resource utilization (ISRU) and other technologies that will build our future in space. ISRU promises to produce the resources necessary to sustain human life on other planets.  The ability to make potable water, breathable air, and construction materials in situ means that the major constraint on interplanetary missions, the need to bring massive amounts of cargo, can be sidestepped.  This would reduce the cost of a Mars mission by orders of magnitude and help expedite it.  ISRU also provides the only way for Martian settlements to be truly self-sustaining, allowing humanity to become a multiplanetary species and kickstart a new era of history.

Mars Tractor

The tractor subteam is designing and constructing an autonomous roving vehicle dubbed the Mars Tractor that can gather extraterrestrial soil, deposit said soil into the bricks subteam’s brick machine, and manipulate produced bricks to construct simple structures like walls and roads.  The machine features a modified rocker-bogie suspension configuration (similar to NASA’s Mars rovers), allowing it to tumble over uneven terrain.  Its tools feature a custom soil-gathering drum and forklift-like attachment for carrying bricks.  Basic computer vision will allow it to interface with the brick machine using visual tags while avoiding large obstacles.

The team has built a first draft of the mechanical and electrical systems, and has also begun work on the control code and computer vision software. Over the summer and into next year, the team will finish the basic tractor and design specialized arms for lifting, scooping, and placing soil and bricks. This project is particularly well suited to people interested in CS, MechE, EE, product design, and robotics!

Mars Simulation

The Mars Simulation  team works to build a flexible Martian environment and mission architecture simulation platform. This past year, we’ve been  building a minimum-viable-product capable of simulating SpaceX’s proposed mission architecture. Going forward, we hope to work with contacts at NASA to refine the system into a realistic, open-source mission planner! This project involves research, coding, visualization design, UX testing and design, and more! Ideal for students interested in CS, mission planning/space exploration strategy, communications, and UX/UI!

Mars Bricks

The bricks subteam experiments with methods of turning Martian and lunar soil into building materials for habitats and other structures.  The main material we worked with is called biopolymer-bound soil composite (BSC), which is solely composed of an aggregate soil, a protein binder (such as bovine serum albumin), and reclaimable water (which is necessary for mixing and can be recaptured during desiccation).  BSC has similar compressive strength as Portland cement concrete, the world’s most common construction material.  While concrete production accounts for about 8% of global CO2 emissions, BSC provides a possible carbon-neutral alternative.  We are currently designing a prototype device to autonomously produce BSC bricks.

This subteam won an opportunity to send an experiment to the ISS via SPOCS (Student Payload Opportunity with Citizen Science), a NASA design competition.  We will send a payload that will test how BSC dries in microgravity aboard the International Space Station, which will provide valuable data to compare with ground experiments, hopefully shedding light on the material’s usage on the Moon and Mars.Over the next year, we will process data and publish results from our ISS experiment. Additionally, we will finish designing our brick-making machine and start testing and iterating! This project would be particularly well suited for people interested in urban studies/housing, chemical engineering, materials science, MechE, EE, CS, and product design, as well as anyone who loved playing in mud puddles as a kid!


Please see the Balloons page for more info.


Please see the HABMC page for more info.

Team Lead: SlackLogo.png@Richard Chen 

HABMC is SSI's in-house developed web-based High Altitude Balloon Mission Control (HABMC) platform. From here, we can track our balloons all over the world, streaming live telemetry data from onboard sensors and controlling the balloons altitude and trajectory by sending commands. Infinitely adaptable and expandable, HABMC allows balloons to launch a diverse set of payload types and receive data from anywhere in the world, to anywhere in the world. HABMC can be found here.


Please see the Cycloon page for more info.

Team Lead: SlackLogo.png@Hagop Chinchinian 

Balloons launched by SSI from California have flown over three continents and two oceans. What better way to leverage these high-precision, long-endurance flight capabilities than to fly into and collect data from hurricanes, nature’s most awe-inspiring and destructive storms?

That’s exactly what Cycloon is up to. In just one quarter, our team successfully launched five missions that tested marine tethers, control algorithms, launch maneuvers, and trajectory optimizations to reach storms over the ocean. In the coming year, we’ll be developing radiosondes to drop into weather systems over the continental US, with our eyes set on the big prize: collecting data from an Atlantic or Pacific hurricane in fall 2022 and publishing our results in a conference!

Our task is exciting and ambitious, and a ton of cool challenges await. Want to design lightweight, power-optimized embedded systems? Have a ham radio license and ideas for scaling up data downlink? Interested in inventing new search and optimization algorithms? Just love meteorology and want to direct engineering efforts for a scientific objective? Can’t wait to see the day when the next NHC advisory means dozens of balloons launched within 48 hours? We can’t either! Join Cycloon to develop cutting-edge technology, perform important scientific research, and create a meaningful impact on the world!


Please see the Balloonerang page for more info.

Team Lead: SlackLogo.png@Rohan Sanda 

Retrieving payloads is just as important as launching them. Balloonerang tackles the challenge of payload recovery with a single, integrated, guided recovery system, simulating when aerodynamics, mechanical, and controls work become inseparable. It is the newest and fastest growing balloons team.

A Balloonerang payload is launched to near-space and then autonomously glides to land near the outskirts of inhabited areas, reducing time and cost of recovery operations. This stubby glider spends up to a week in the freezing upper atmosphere, ballasting weight, recharging batteries with onboard solar panels, keeping itself and the payload warm, and communicating important data back to Earth with its satellite radio system. When it’s time to terminate the mission, the glider severs its connection to the balloon and zipps back to earth at over 70mph, fighting hundred mile per hour jetstreams, stabilizing itself in high altitude turbulence, and guiding itself to a mission defined recovery site. At 400 feet above the ground, the glider deploys the parachute and descends safely to the ground. Whew! What a journey! And what an adventure for you to go on!

If you’re interested in CAD design, board fabrication, data visualization, aerodynamics, optimizing flight paths, or anything electronics, Balloonerang has a place for you to shine. Join this tight knit team to experience a little bit of everything: flight control algorithms, complex mechanical design, and hands-on electrical engineering experience.


Note: the below project is no longer active in SSI. Please see the Balloons page for an updated list of projects. ValBal (Valve and Ballast), is a world record-breaking high-altitude balloon payload that autonomously maintains a set altitude for days of flight by venting helium gas and dropping ballast. If you are interested in MechE, EE, CS, Physics, or even MatSci or ChemE, there's a place for you on the ValBal team!

  • MechE -- Lead: Paige Brown

ValBal's current design is a 3 part 3D printed nylon structure that uses motors to vent helium gas directly from the balloon neck, cut down the payload in the event of an emergency, and turn a wheel to dispense bb pellets as ballast from a lower compartment. The structure supports, at its heart, the avionics, which powers and control the motors and sensors. Contact SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}}  if you're interested in:

  • Computer Aided Design (CAD) in SolidWorks
  • 3D printing
  • Messing with dry ice
  • Laser cutting
  • Random jank manufacturing tricks
  • and everything else that goes into making ValBal mechanics run smoothly
  • EE -- Lead: Aria Tedjarati

ValBal’s current electrical system consists of two compact, low-cost, 4 layer printed circuit boards with a custom avionics platform and a prototype digital radio communication link. The avionics consist of a multitude of sensors, a GPS, a two-way satellite communications system, motor drivers, power regulation, an embedded micro-controller, and much, much more! The digital radio system consists of a 433 MHz GFSK modulated, Reed-Solomon error corrected link that has been proven to reach ranges of 200 km at data-rates significantly greater than that of the Iridium constellation at 1/5th of the power consumption and 1/20th the cost. There are a multitude of ways to join the electrical engineering aspect of ValBal, so if any of this stuff interests you, join! Contact SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}}  for more information.

  • CS -- Lead: Davy Ragland

With ValBal CS, you will learn how to design and build robust, reliable, and flight critical embedded systems code. Since we cannot simply patch the firmware when it is flying, and if something goes wrong we could literally crash, we have to model our system in a way that accounts for complex states, edge cases, and emergent properties. From smart subsystem rebooting to bidirectional comms with parameter tuning, and from a multitude of flight modes to heavily optimized processor and memory behavior, ValBal is the perfect place to hone your skills building something that not only works, but works to industry standards. Contact SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}}  to get involved!

  • Physics -- As a physics major, there are plenty of opportunities for you to work on ValBal. It is an insanely complex system; the flight dynamics are not yet completely understood and require simulating atmospheric and thermal effects. Good models are critical to create a good controller, another key component to ValBal that limits our possible endurance. At the same time, you can help with the design of the payload itself, considering how to optimize it for the harsh environment and coming up with good designs. Contact SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}}  for more inforation and a good dose of jank.
  • MatSci/ChemE -- Lead: Paige Brown

ValBal has a fatal problem: latex balloons are quickly weakened by UV radiation and ozone at high altitudes, leading to mission ending failure in just a few days. If this sounds like an interesting problem to you, and you want to be an integral part of helping us circumnavigate the world someday, come help us figure out how to strengthen or alter the latex balloon with s c i e n c e. Contact SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}}  if you're interested!



Daedalus is our suite of technology development projects. The work done here pushes forwards on our long-term plan for a space shot. Each project will involve some mechanical, electrical, programming and simulations work, so feel free to join any one of them - but each focuses on a different aspect of rocketry.

Icarus - Reefed Parachute, Lead: Saylor

  • Icarus is building a rocket with a reefed parachute - one which changes size during flight to adjust the rocket descent. This project will intimately involve:
    • Mechanics and mechanical engineering - designing, simulating and building a deployment mechanism.
    • Mechanics and aerodynamics - designing the parachute and its aerodynamic properties.
    • Electrical engineering - PCB design, electrical integration and programming. Focus on high reliability and low size & power.

Charybdis - Spin Stabilization Contact: William

  • Charybdis is building a rocket that spins like a rifle bullet, then stops spinning mid-air to deploy parachutes.
    • Mechanical engineering - designing reliable deployment mechanism.
    • Aerodynamics and simulation - designing fin system to create desired spin.

Argus - Distributed RF Camera System Lead: John

  • Argus is building a rocket equipped with a new camera system, allowing us to easily take video (and possibly stream live!) from the interior and exterior of rockets as they fly.
    • Electrical Engineering - circuit board design, electrical integration.
    • Signals - RF & transmission tech.

Competition (IREC/SA Cup)

  • Structures, Lead: Will
    • Design and test all airframe hardware
    • Design and build tools for integration of the rocket
    • Ensure all subsystems are designed and build to correct dimensions
  • Payload, Lead: WANTED
    • Design and execute an interesting research project of your choice
    • Design a payload of 8.8lbs to be carried to 30,000ft
  • Recovery, Lead: Saylor
    • Design and sew a parachute and test it to confirm its Coefficient of Drag
    • Design and test a deployment mechanism for our rocket
    • Ensure our rocket comes down in one piece
  • Avionics, Leads: Sharon, Julea SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}}  SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}} 
    • Design, implement, and test all the hardware and software that goes into our flight computers
    • Design and manufacture structures for avionics bay and work with other subteams to implement interfaces and integration processes
    • Design and test radio communications system for our rocket to talk to the ground
    • Write software to parse and visualize data, build a protective cooling case for laptops & other electronics so they don't die in the blazing desert heat and dust (yes there's a story here)
  • Launch Operations, Lead: Tylor Jilk
    • Work with each subteam to coordinate and prepare launch materials
    • Plan & execute travel and launch logistics
    • Oversee launch procedures, checklists, and go/no calls
    • Many more additional projects for ground support designable around personal interests
  • Simulations, Lead: Ruqayya
    • Develop computer simulations to predict the flight path of our rocket
    • Inform the decision making of the team with analysis of motors, weights and design


🌲🛰Sequoia 🛰🌲

We are build a small satellite for earth observation and machine learning. Check out our page for more info! Satellites

Our Subteams

  • Avionics
    • The GistThe Avionics group works on all of the core electrical systems for the Satellites team, including electrical power distribution, sensors, and computing. Learn how to design and reflow Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) and work with signal-processing to understand light signals in the inky darkness of space!
    • The People To Talk to SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}} Akasha, SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}} Ian
  • GNC
    • The Gist The GNC group ("Guidance, Navigation, and Control") is responsible for determining and controlling the position and rotation of satellites in space even while hundreds or sometimes thousands of miles away. Join GNC to work with us on cutting-edge technologies and a system to control our satellites in orbit from the comfort of the SSI space bunker.
    • The People To Talk to Alec, Rodrigo
  • Software
    • The Gist The software team tackles the many different challenges of software needed for satellites: from flight software to web development, we do it all. For flight software, we take advantage of parallel communications modules to manage real-time requirements on pointing control. For web development, we are partnering with the ground operations team to build thorough mission control software and web interface. If any of this seems daunting or complicated, don’t worry. We all started from scratch. Join software and get your code in space!
    • The People To Talk to Moritz, Langston
  • Structures
    • The Gist The Structures team designs and builds all necessary flight mechanics, ranging from the overall structure to individual component mounts. We go through the full development process - whiteboard drawings, Fusion 360, and finally manufacturing. The Structures team is also responsible for many of the environmental considerations, such as the thermal and vacuum requirements of space, as well as the shock and vibration profile of launch.
    • The People To Talk to Connor, TaNia


Enzymatic DNA Synthesis Methods

Lead: Gwyn Uttmark SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}} 

    • Test commercial blocking groups for compatibility with Terminal Deoxynucleotidyl Transferase
    • Chemically synthesize nucleotides with different reversible blocking groups
    • Characterize and optimize enzymatic DNA synthesis reaction efficiency
    • Build and run stochastic computer models of DNA synthesis to optimize reaction parameters
    • Research purification methods for synthesized DNA
    • Design and test your own synthesis method!

Sequence Verification

Microfluidic Device Design

    • Design and program an Electrowetting on Dielectric microfluidic PCB
    • Simulate and test how a microfluidic system would work in microgravity
    • Port our DNA synthesis method to a solid substrate like controlled pore glass or streptavidin-biotin magnetic beads
    • Optimize an integrated microfluidic protocol for DNA synthesis and verification on the electrowetting PCB and on the Beckman Biomek 2000 liquid handling robot in lab
    • Research and test other automated fluid handling methods, like acoustic droplet ejection or optoelectrowetting.
    • Build a system for cooling and temperature control of the device, perhaps using Peltiers
    • Write an algorithm to minimize the number of groups of compatible templates needed for the exonuclease method
    • Figure out how to power our PCB from a cubesat or other launch vehicle
    • Build testing rigs for DNA synthesis methods that are needed for experiments in lab


Outer space is cold, dark, and dangerous, yet people keep risking lives and spending billions of dollars to venture into its depths. Space projects have historically been some of the most dangerous and time consuming human endeavors ever attempted. So… why do we do it?

SSI’s Policy Team investigates the politics of space. Whether you are an economist, philosopher, engineer, or anything else, whether you are fascinated by today’s rapidly changing space industry or wish you were around for the first moon landing, Policy Team is the place for you. Join us for our weekly general meetings to discuss the trends and issues of the space industry, or take part in one (or more!) of our subteams below! The future of space is in your hands.

UN Proposal & Citizens for Space Exploration

Ever dreamed of visiting the United Nations or meeting with senators in Washington DC to discuss hot topics in outer space? SSI’s Policy Team provides incredible opportunities to delve into the intriguing, controversial, and challenging world of space policy.

Each year, Policy Team sends members to the Citizens for Space Exploration Conference in Washington, DC, where you — yes, you! — can speak directly with lawmakers and elected officials, lobbying to promote space exploration and determine the role of government in space.

Last year, eight students from the Policy Team worked with the nonprofit For All Moonkind to write a proposal about the preservation of human heritage in space, and the paper is going to be published by the Astrosociology Research Institute. Normally these students would get to travel to Vienna, Austria and present their research to the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space; although we weren’t able to last year due to COVID, we plan on going again this year!


Space policy is a large, complex, intergenerational conversation — and we want you to join! Our weekly space news podcast “This Week in Space” (check us out on Spotify or iTunes!) addresses what's currently going on in the space industry through discussions among team members and interviews with distinguished members of the space industry. We currently have listeners in 25 countries and are looking to keep expanding!

Book Club

Love space related pop culture? Interested in how science fiction eventually becomes science fact? Eager to meet sci-fi authors? Just looking for a place to vibe with really cool people? Come join our book club! We read sci fi novels and discuss them at our biweekly meetings.



  • Come up with a theme for Special Dinner and make decorations (like a model Falcon 9!)
  • Help SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}}  run SSI general dinners
  • Plan and run general community events like Trivia Night, Pathfinder, and Movie Night


  • Find diverse speakers to bring to campus
  • Organize diversity mixers (including with other engineering groups)
  • Help SlackLogo.png@{{{display-name}}}  run workshops


  • Find an interesting company and arrange a tour or talk
  • Help handle logistics of an existing talk, like by meeting an astronaut and walking him to Durand 450
  • Give a CEO or Venture Capitalist a tour of ESIII


  • Complete reimbursements
  • Apply for grants & seek out new sponsors


  • Design awesome swag (t-shirts, jackets, posters)
  • Reach out to reporters
  • Social media guru! (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts)
  • Creating Snapchat filters for events
  • Designing flyers for upcoming talks
  • Going on launches to take pictures and videos


  • Start discussions with local highschools and their science clubs
  • Organize or join an existing trip to a local school


  • Pursue a sponsorship (we'll walk you through how!)
  • Compile a list of bay-area aerospace companies


  • Overhaul the budgeting system
  • Give the sponsors page dynamic content
  • Manage this very wiki
  • Manage our public and internal websites


  • Make space-themed artwork to decorate ESIII
  • Plant more herbs
  • Paint a mural
  • Track inventory of supplies and parts