Stanford University's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics has commenced full scale development of a new microsatellite initiative. Known as the satellite quick research testbed (SQUIRT) program, the project's goal is to produce student engineered satellites capable of servicing state-of-the-art research payloads on a yearly basis. This program is specifically designed to meet the education and research goals of the department's Satellite Systems Development Laboratory. SQUIRT vehicles are envisioned to consist of a 25 pound, 9 inch tall, 16 inch diameter hexagonal structure with complete processor, communications, power, thermal, and attitude subsystems. These spacecraft cater to low power, volume, and mass research experiments and student developed educational packages. Mission lifetimes of up to one year are considered. Through student participation, voluntary mentoring from the academic and industrial communities, and the extensive use of off-the-shelf components, the cash outlay target for SQUIRT class vehicles is $50,000. This paper discusses the educational and research issues surrounding the development of Stanford's spacecraft design curriculum and the formulation of the SQUIRT program. A technical review of the first SQUIRT satellite, named SAPPHIRE, and an outline of the conceptual plans for other missions is also presented. Additionally, initiatives concerning partner academic institutions and public domain design information are featured.