Small Satellites and CubeSats Satellite Attitude and Orbit Control Systems - NanoAvionics

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Small Satellites and CubeSats Satellite Attitude and Orbit Control Systems

Blog
  • 2023-12-11

Satellite Attitude and Orbit Control Systems (AOCS) encompass the design and implementation of control systems, algorithms, and strategies to ensure the satellite, particularly CubeSats and small satellites, maintains its desired trajectory and attitude in space. The challenges here are achieving a hundredth of a degree pointing accuracies, accounting for the satellite’s forward motion relative to its target, and navigating the complexities of gravitational and magnetic forces and orbital dynamics.

AOCS analysis for CubeSats and Small Satellites

The AOCS maintains the satellite’s desired orientation in space. An AOCS analysis begins in the early stage of a CubeSat or small satellite project to examine performance or identify any potential issues with stability, agility, or accuracy. It factors in the satellite’s structural dynamics, mass of inertia, actuator sizing, and sensor capabilities to model them against the mission requirements.

Satellite attitude and orbit control system design and integration

Our AOCS Engineers develop algorithms and control strategies that ensure precise pointing, stability, and maneuverability. Integrating the AOCS in CubeSats and small satellites requires seamless communication and synchronization between the flight computer and sun sensors, star trackers, magnetometers, IMUs, GPS, reaction wheels, magnetorquers, and other actuators.

Mission-specific control algorithms for satellites

Whether it’s Earth observation, communication, or scientific exploration, control algorithms play a crucial role in maneuver planning, data acquisition, and system optimization for CubeSats and small satellites. An Earth observation satellite might require high pointing accuracy and stability, whereas a communication satellite might only do away with the former. Mission-specific control algorithms tailor the satellite’s behavior and response to meet these objectives.

Read more about diverse small satellite missions.

Sensor calibration

Sensors are critical satellite components, providing data for the satellite’s flight computer. Sensor calibration in CubeSats and small satellites involves adjusting and validating their output against standard calibration sources to ensure the integrity of collected data and improve the overall accuracy of satellite operations.

Hardware-in-the-loop testing for small satellites AOCS

Like in software development, Hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testing is essential in developing AOCS systems, particularly for small satellites. By running their control algorithms on real hardware in a simulated environment, our AOCS engineers can verify their simulated models and satellite performance.

In-orbit AOCS tests and validation for CubeSats and Small satellites

Once the satellite is deployed into orbit, it undergoes further testing to validate the AOCS performance and functionality in the actual space environment. These tests quantify the satellite’s pointing accuracy, stability, and response to external factors and provide crucial data on improving our CubeSats and small satellite missions in the future.