Department Logo for Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

ELFIN Student Team wins NASA TechLeap Prize

UCLA’s ELFIN student team, part of the Experimental Space Physics (ESP) lab of Professor Vassilis Angelopoulos, is one of the three finalists winning the 2024 NASA TechLeap Prize, a challenge to develop interface systems that easily integrate diverse space payloads onto flight vehicles.

The Experimental Space Physics lab focuses on in situ measurements of plasma, particles, and fields in near-Earth space. The sizable undergraduate student portion of the lab is led by Project Manager Ethan Tsai, who previously oversaw the successful completion of the NASA ELFIN CubeSat mission ( Sophie Ye, a graduating senior, will lead the focused undergraduate team's development of the UCLA Software-Defined Payload Interface (SDPI), which leverages previous flight experience and syngerizes well with future EPSS ambitions for spaceflight.

Mentored by graduate students and engineering staff at EPSS, the SDPI team aims to reduce the cost and complexity of integrating scientific payloads into orbital vehicles and lunar landers which solves a key bottleneck in the performing scientific investigations in space. Their proposal for the Software-Defined Payload Interface (SDPI) is powered by a flight-proven ARM/FPGA System-on-Chip and provides customers with fleixbile user interface that allows for the configuration of communication and power interfaces for seamless integration into a wide range of space applications. The SDPI team will have access to a fully-equipped electrical engineering lab, the EPSS prototyping shop, and a fully-operational, in-house thermal-vacuum chamber (TVAC), and will work alongside other like-minded students building space plasma instrumentation and satellite buses.

ELFIN student team

Informational Video from ELFIN Student Team: 

Posted on June 6, 2024