Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

Committee Chair

Powsiri Klinkhachorn

Committee Member

Roy Nutter

Committee Member

Jason Gross


The utility of Small Satellites (SmallSats) for technology demonstrations and scientific research has been proven over the past few decades by governments, universities, and private companies. While the research and technology demonstration objectives that can be provided by these SmallSats are becoming similar to larger spacecraft, their reliability still falls behind. This is in part due to the reduced cost of SmallSat missions in comparison to large spacecraft, which requires cheaper components, rapid development schedules, and accepted risk. In these missions, the importance of the flight software is often overlooked, and the software is rushed through development and not fully tested to provide the reliability required for on-orbit operations.

This research aims to investigate the common causes of failures on SmallSats, and to provide a solution to the problem of developing and testing reliable flight software, through the use of software-based simulation of the full embedded satellite system. Through the course of this research, an open-source product was developed and released to the public to assist SmallSat missions, which is currently in use by public and private institutions across the country. The resulting product, the NASA Operational Simulator for Small Satellites, commonly referred to as NOS3, will be discussed in detail. The results of NOS3 will be viewed through a case study of the application of NOS3 to a SmallSat mission.