The nanosatellite design is a hexagonal prism. The structure consists of two hexagonal base plates and six side panels. All parts are composed of aluminum 6061-T651.
The Air Force is currently considering launch of the ION-F cluster from either the Space Shuttle payload bay or the Pegasus expendable launch vehicle. The payload environments for these vehicles are quite different. Since the Air Force will not make a final decision on the launch vehicle until at least November 1999, the Dawgstar must be designed to withstand the worst-case launch loads of both vehicles.
Based on current estimates, the structural mass is approximately 1.97 kg, which meets mass budget requirements. Further reductions in mass may be obtained following future design improvements.
In order to optimize structure strength while minimizing structural mass, graphite fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) may be used. With proper consideration of conductive properties, a composite structure for the UW nanosatellite is viable. Further research into spacecraft shielding and ionospheric charging may be necessary to provide adequate protection to the craft.