Research and Development in CubeSat and Small Satellite Technology - NanoAvionics

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Research and Development in CubeSat and Small Satellite Technology

  • 2023-12-21

Research and development in CubeSat and small satellite technology is a dynamic field that encompasses various disciplines, from advanced electronics, sensors, and cutting-edge software to propulsion systems and attitude control hardware.

Challenges of Designing and Qualifying Hardware for CubeSat and Small Satellite Space Missions

One of the primary challenges in CubeSat and small satellite manufacturing is designing hardware that can withstand the harsh conditions of outer space. Extreme temperatures, radiation, vacuum, and microgravity pose significant challenges that must be considered during the hardware and software design phase. Stringent testing and qualification procedures are necessary to guarantee functionality and performance in orbit for CubeSats and small satellites. This means spending a lot of time and resources on TVAC, EMC, EMI, vibration, and radiation tests.

Market Analysis, Component Selection, Subsystem, and Platform Design in CubeSat and Small Satellite Development

As the first nanosatellite manufacturer to expand into the smallsat market and offer the broadest range of standard bus configurations, we obsess over product development for CubeSats and small satellites. Our R&D projects begin with a comprehensive analysis that involves evaluating market trends, identifying customer needs, studying competitors, and looking at lessons learned from our past and current missions in orbit. The requirements derived from the analysis drive new subsystem and platform design with careful selection of components, considering factors such as performance, reliability, cost-effectiveness, and availability. System-level engineering expertise is required at this stage to ensure seamless subsystem integration, functionality, and reliability of our off-the-shelf CubeSat and small satellite platforms.

Redundancy Design in CubeSat and Small Satellite Systems

Given the high cost and time investment associated with CubeSat and small satellite manufacturing, it is crucial to minimize the risk of failure by building redundancy into the system. Redundancy in hardware and software enables the satellite to continue operations even in the event of a component failure. Most important, however, is ensuring all systems have built-in fault detection, such as over-current protection, watchdogs, and other measures to prevent failures in the first place.

Software Design for CubeSats and Small Satellites

Satellite software design, especially for CubeSats and small satellites, faces unique challenges, such as limited computing resources, the need for high fault tolerance, and the requirement to function autonomously over extended periods without direct human intervention. The software must manage and control the satellite’s various subsystems efficiently and ensure seamless communication with ground stations while adapting to the dynamic and harsh conditions of outer space.

Payload-Platform Interface Control in CubeSat and Small Satellite Missions

The payload, particularly in CubeSat and small satellite missions, refers to the instruments or equipment on the satellite that carry out specific scientific or communication tasks. Ensuring proper interface control between the payload and the platform is crucial for accurate data collection and communication. Understanding the requirements of the payload and integrating it seamlessly into the satellite’s architecture involves considering factors such as accuracy and agility demands, power supply, data handling, and mechanical support.

Validation in CubeSat and Small Satellite Development

Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) serve as a standardized measurement system to assess the maturity of a particular technology, especially within the realm of CubeSat and small satellite development. Originating from NASA’s rigorous R&D processes, TRLs provide a structured approach to gauge the progression of a technology from its conceptual inception (TRL 1) to its full operational deployment in space (TRL 9). Our standard satellite buses only use flight-proven (TRL 9) components, whether developed in-house or procured from trusted suppliers.