Sensor Systems and Microsystems - From Fabrication to Application

In This Section


The introduction of sensor technology, including smart microsensor systems, into Aerospace applications is rapidly expanding to allow improved system monitoring and provide gains in efficiency, performance, critical data, and safety. This short course is taught by three experts in sensor technology and its application to provide not only an overview of microsensor fabrication and development, but also a practical discussion of the implementation of sensor systems in space applications. The first half day of the course will concentrate on micro/nano-fabrication techniques and processes taught by Prof. Peter Hesketh of Georgia Institute of Technology. The second half day of the course will discuss case studies in sensor development taught by Dr. Gary Hunter of NASA Glenn Research Center. The last half day of the course will discuss sensor system implementation ranging from Payloads such as Mars Pathfinder to Launch Vehicle Sensor Implementation such as The Ares I Launch Vehicle; taught by Mr. Larry Oberle of NASA Glenn Research Center.

Key Topics:

• Advanced Throughput Capabilities: Assessment of pros and cons of on-board Micro/Nanofabrication techniques including lithography, oxidation/ diffusion processes, etching processes, and thin film deposition
• Sensor packaging and wafer bonding technique
• Case studies in sensor development, especially chemical sensor development, including a range of lessons learned and application examples
• Basic procedures and steps associated with flight qualification and deployment of sensors and sensor systems
• Examples of sensor system characterization and implementation on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station with lessons learned
• Discussion of future directions in sensor technology including smart sensors systems, nanotechnology, and applications in harsh environments

Who Should Attend:

The course is designed to appeal to a wide market audience. Every vehicle subsystem can be positively impacted through the proper design and implementation of sensor technology. This course provides a significantly improved understanding of emerging sensor technology through lessons in microsensor fabrication, sensor development, and aerospace sensor implementation.
Type of Course: Instructor-Led Short Course

Course Information:



Course Level: Advanced

Course scheduling available in the following formats:
• Course at Conference
• On-site Course
• Stand-alone/Public Course

Course Length: 1.5 day

AIAA CEU's available


Course Outline:

I. Micro/Nanofabrication techniques
A. Oxidation and Diffusion of Silicon
B. Lithography and Resolution Limits
C. Nucleation and Growth and Physical Vapor Deposition
D. Chemical Vapor Deposition and Atomic Layer Deposition
E. Plasma Etching
F. Focused Ion Beam Processing
G. Electroplating of Micro/Nanodevices
H. Wafer Bonding and Integrated Packaging technology


II. Case Studies and Lessons Learned In Sensor Development
A. Sensors And Supporting Hardware Need To Be Tailored for the Application
B. The Importance of Surface Interface Control
C. Microfabrication is not Just Making Something Smaller
D. The Need For Sensor Arrays
E. Supporting Technologies Often Determine Success in a Sensor Application
F. Sensor Technology Application Approaches

III. Aerospace Sensor System Application
A. Space Flight Hardware Processes
1. Payload Requirements
2. Launch Vehicle Requirements
B. Design Challenges for Space Flight
C. Case Study of Mars Pathfinder Dust Sensor Development
D. Case Study of Ares 1 Development Flight Instrumentation Selection
E. Case Study of Ares 1 Thrust Vector Control Instrumentation Selection
F. Future of Sensors in Space Flight

IV. Future Directions in Sensor Technology
A. Smart Sensors Systems
B. Expanding Operational Ranges into Harsh Environments
C. Integrated Sensor/Actuator Systems
D. Nanotechnology


Course Materials:

Since course notes will not be distributed onsite, AIAA and your course instructor are highly recommending that you bring your computer with the course notes already downloaded to the course.

Once you have registered for the course, these course notes are available about two weeks prior to the course event, and are available to you in perpetuity.

Students will have the opportunity to purchase the recommended textbook “BioNanoFluidic MEMS” at a discounted price.



Course Instructor:

Dr. Gary W. Hunter is the Technical Lead for the Chemical Species Gas Sensors Team and Lead for Intelligent System Hardware in the Sensors and Electronics Branch at NASA Glenn Research Center. He has been involved for 20 years in the design, fabrication, testing, and application of microsensors.

Prof. Peter Hesketh is a Professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering, with a joint appointment in the Bioengineering Program, and Director of the MEMS Group. He has over 20 years experience with microfabrication and MEMS and has published over sixty papers and edited fourteen books on microsensor systems.

Mr. Larry Oberle is the Lead Instrumentation Engineer for the Ares I Upper Stage Development Flight Instrumentation Subsystem; and the Instrumentation Engineer for the Ares I Upper Stage thrust Vector Control System.Mr. Oberle was also the Technical Lead for the Material Adhesion Experiment that flew on Mars Pathfinder Sojourner