Photo: NASA

The CSI CubeSat team is NASA-approved for launch!

Building the first satellite designed by Columbia undergraduates to be launched into low Earth orbit.


The CSI CubeSat team is preparing to launch Columbia University’s first satellite, the Line Imaging Orbiter for Nanosatellite-Enabled Spectrographic Surveys; LIONESS for short. The CubeSat is a partnership with the Schiminovich Astronomy and Instrumentation Lab, and will host an integral field unit (IFU) spectrograph inspired by the lab’s ground-based spectrograph. It will study diffuse gasses in nearby galaxies, as well as serve as the basis of CSI outreach programming in NYC middle schools this year.

LIONESS is still in early stages of development, but has received phenomenal support from the University Nanosat Program, who hosted four of our members as full-time interns on the mission in Summer 2023, and from the CubeSat Launch Initiative, which has awarded our mission a funded launch by 2027.

Mission Goals

  • Create a full engineering model of LIONESS, identify all commercial and custom parts necessary for mission success.

  • Eventually, launch a satellite!

Related Skills

  • Computer Science/Computer Engineering

  • Electrical Engineering

  • Mechanical Engineering

  • Physics, Math

  • Systems Engineering


  • Received funding via NASA New York Space Grant Consortium

  • Completed a design proposal for a cubesat with two scientific payloads: A dynamo that tests the mechanical properties of glass fibers in low Earth orbit conditions.

  • A set of off-the-shelf electronics under different forms of radiation protection that test their viability in low Earth orbit use.

  • Met with the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies to refine design concept (2018)

  • Received funding via NASA New York Space Grant Consortium

  • Received funding from the Activities Board at Columbia which we used to purchase prototyping hardware. (2018)

Mission Directors


Matthew Werneken

SEAS 2024, CC 2025

Mechanical Engineering, Astrophysics

[email protected]


Ines Khouider

SEAS 2025

Computer Science

[email protected]


David McIntosh

SEAS 2024

Mechanical Engineering

[email protected]

Recent News

Cubesat Proposal Decision posted in cubesat

March 23, 2016

We’ve finally heard back from NASA on our USIP proposal, and it’s unfortunately a no go. But that won’t stop us. We’re exploring a possible collaboration on Black Knight II, the U.S. Army’s cubesat. We’ll keep this page updated as we explore more opportunities in the area. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to our initial proposal, as well as everyone who has supported us along the way.


Cubesat Proposal Submitted to NASA posted in cubesat

November 20, 2015

Good news! We’ve submitted our 60+ page proposal to NASA today for the Student Flight Research Opportunity (SFRO). Many thanks to all the team members who’ve contributed to the creation of this proposal! Our cubesat experiments will test the tensile properties of glass, and the viability of certain radiation shielding on commercial electronics. We’ll keep you updated on our results.