- Vaida Karaliunaite
Nanosatellites such as those based on the M6P satellite bus must be designed to survive the radiation environment in LEO for several years. Only a program of rigorous testing can make commercial satellite operators confident that their satellites will function throughout the mission lifecycle. At NanoAvionics we test our nanosatellite buses and their subsystems regularly, as part of the product qualification process.
Recently, we completed an all-systems radiation test of our M6P multipurpose nanosatellite bus – we simulated a 5-year mission by exposing the M6P’s subsystems to a Cobalt-60 radiation source. The gamma rays generated by the isotope’s decay produced a 20 kRad radiation dose – a worst-case scenario for the internal systems of a satellite that spends 5 years in LEO, at an altitude up to 1000km. The Flight Computer, Electrical Power System, Payload Controller and all other subsystems of the M6P remained fully functional after the tests. These updated test results imply that the expected in-orbit lifetime of M6P and its separate subsystems is minimum 5 years, and in nominal conditions – 10-20 years.
Such a long on-orbit lifespan was once only possible with much larger satellites. The 6U-sized M6P, with its payload volume up to 5U, can support such long-duration LEO missions thanks to its 20kRad radiation tolerant subsystems and integrated chemical propulsion system. Enabling Chemical Propulsion System (EPSS) uses a green monopropellant to perform high-impulse orbital maintenance maneuvers and atmospheric drag compensation maneuvers that extend the satellite’s on-orbit service life.