The process of designing, building, and launching a satellite even as small as NEOSSat requires the efforts of dozens of people throughout the various phases of the project. The start of a mission usually stems from a research concept that requires a spacecraft. The group of researchers involved at the beginning (and continuing through the project) is called a science team. Each member of the team brings his/her specific expertise and experience to the project.
The leader of the science team, the Principal Investigator (PI), is a researcher who, typically in cooperation with industry, develops a mission concept for proposal to funding agencies. He/she forms a science team that develops many of the science goals; the PI is also willing to spend a lot of time on the programmatic aspects of the project.
In the case of the NEOSSat microsatellite, which is a dual use mission, there are two PIs – one for the NESS project and another for the HEOSS project (High Earth Orbit Surveillance System) being conducted by Defence Research & Development Canada. The NESS project has another PI for the leadership/funding of the US-based science team members. (Note: this is an international team capitalising on expertise and interest of researchers where they may be found.) The team is structured in part to be “multigenerational” for continuity in the research effort and research capacity development, and a Deputy PI exists to take on project leadership in case of need.