Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Thermal Characterisation Testing Completed

The thermal characterisation testing in vacuum has been successfully completed. The heater was bonded to the structure on 7th March, along with thermocouples to measure the temperature variation before and after the interface. The vacuum test was performed in ambient temperatures and has produced results which closely match predictions.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Thermal Characterisation Testing Scheduled

Scott Morgan and the platform team have been putting in a lot of work to prepare for Thermal Characterisation Testing of the cubesat hardware for the beginning of March. This testing is planned to commence on March 4th. A small vacuum chamber has been identified and the testing equipment is currently being sourced. The aim of the testing is to increase the knowledge of the thermal conductive coupling between one panel of the cubesat and another. This is very important for predicting the thermal gradients between the cubesat external panels facing the sun and those in shadow.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Communications team visit to Stevenage

Daniel Ludlow & Tim Mead from the Communications team have travelled up to Stevenage from Portsmouth for a day visit.
They have been carrying out a number of tasks:
- Transporting the cubesat hardware for platform testing in Stevenage
- Installation of the new computers and software in the Stevenage ground station
- Assessing the performance of the terminal node controller
- Comparing the ground station set-up in Stevenage to that in Portsmouth.
The computer installations have progressed well. "It was really useful to see the Stevenage ground station set-up and also to meet the Stevenage guys in person" says Daniel, Communications key area lead. The plan is to have near-identical set-ups in both ground stations to improve the ground station operation efficiency.

Monday, 11 October 2010

New LunchSat team for 2010-2011

With the new influx of graduates on the Graduate Development Programme in October 2010, the 2010-2011 LunchSat team has been selected and has had the first meeting of the year on 11th October 2010. The video conference session involved the whole team being able to meet the new starters, followed by laboratory and ground station visits. There are also changes to the organisation to streamline the previous 14 sub-systems down into 6 key areas: Project Management, OBC, Communications, Payload, Platform, and Operations. This is expected to help to reduce the time spent in meetings and to enable the project to cope better with team members being unavailable at certain times due to illness or other work commitments. By having more people associated with each old sub-system, the workload can be better spread around each key area depending on priority. The main objectives this year is to aim for the cubesat platform to be ready for final flight testing by the start of 2012, significant payload development and a radio transmission between the Stevenage and Portsmouth ground stations via satellite.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

LunchSat at IAC 2010

Members of the Lunchsat team have presented their papers to the global space community at the 61st International Astronautical Congress 2010 in Prague.

Representing the Lunchsat project and Astrium, project lead Nick Fishwick and Tom Stuttard who were chosen to present their papers at the IAC in Prague, met in the heart of the Czech captial on a mission to spread the word of LunchSat to enthusiastic students, young professionals and industry veterans alike.
The International Astronautical Congress (IAC) is one of the most established and attended space conferences in the world. This year, 3,500 attendees (including 283 young professionals) presented 1,600 papers at the Prague Congress Centre, where 300 exhibitors manned 50 stands across an exhibition space of some 1250 square metres in area, representing agencies and institutions including NASA, JAXA and the European Space Agency. The exhibition areas fostered networking with like-minded professionals, as delegates were encouraged to explore the stands between events.

Opening ceremony

The festivities began on Monday with the official opening ceremony of IAC 2010 and a welcome to Prague and the Congress from Jan Kolář, Chairman of the Local Organising Committee and Berndt Feuerbacher, President of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF).

The ceremony was a spectacular introduction to Czech culture, featuring children dancing in traditional dress, dancers and violinists, technicolour artists unleashing their creative talent upon an unsuspecting auditorium of space enthusiasts that quickly warmed to such a vibrant cultural performance. The event was set upon a backdrop of photographs showcasing Prague and a variety of venues from across the Czech Republic.

Plenaries and highlight lectures

A range of plenary sessions focused on contemporary themes pertinent to current space exploration and introduced several key figureheads of the global space effort. The Congress began on Monday with a Heads of Agency plenary whereby the American, European, Indian and Japanese space agency heads provided an overview of their current programmes and insight into future plans, followed by an interactive discussion with the audience. The next plenary, The Impact of Governments’ Space Policy Changes on Industry, brought agency and industry heads together.

Two events on the public programme discussed global navigation systems. One plenary, Never Lost Again, demonstrated the worldwide importance of satellite navigation systems to the public, to industry, transportation and to the military. A highlight lecture on the same subject area looked at the origins, surprises and future of GPS.

The Global Sea Level Rise and Its Societal Impacts plenary examined different aspects of sea level rise including current international spaceborne programmes that make sustained, precision measurements of the phenomenon.

The Advancing the Global Exploration Strategy plenary talked about the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG), where agencies have expressed their intent and determination to work together to enable the exploration of the Moon, Mars and asteroids. A further plenary, ISS Research – A Decade of Progress and a Decade of Promise discussed research taking place on the International Space Station.

SETI Progress and Prospects looked at the continuing search for extraterrestrial intelligence, with the final highlight lecture entitled Chandrayaan-1 and Water on the Moon. There were three Late Breaking News sessions discussing Rosetta, Hayabusa, Falcon 9 and ECAPS.

Nanosatellite day

The second day back in the exhibition space introduced the first nanosatellite fair held by the IAF at an IAC event, with 30 representatives from the nano-satellite industry presenting their commercial products and concepts. Free launch opportunities were also discussed, and we took the opportunity to explore the potential options available to us for when we plan to launch Lunchsat from 2011.

One notable project was QB50, a research project to investigate the potential for distributed computing and in-situ measurement of the space environment across 50 nanosats in low-Earth orbit. For more details on this project and others that were presented throughout the session, consult the Nanosatellite Fair pages of the IAF.

Our papers

Nick's paper, 'LunchSat: A Training Programme for Young Professionals in EADS Astrium to Build a Nano-Satellite', introduced the project to the Space Education and Outreach Symposium and was the first to be presented of the three (see details).

The second paper, 'The Potential of Innovative Outreach from Cube-Sat Programmes', followed on Wednesday for the same symposium and provided an insight into how educational projects such as Lunchsat can be used to highlight the effectiveness of outreach initiatives to benefit institutions and the general public (details).

Tom's technical paper, 'Systems Engineering, Operations and Payload Interfacing in Cube-Sats', followed on the final day and was presented to the Small Satellite Missions Symposium (details).

Prague exploration

Once the papers were presented and our networking events attended, we had just enough time to explore the rest of Prague -- a beautiful city with many cultural attractions and some interesting historical connections to astronomy, making it a fitting venue for the Congress.

One particularly noteworthy attraction was the Prague Astronomical Clock, a medieval tower situated in the Old Town Hall featuring a dial representing the relative positions of the Sun and Moon in the sky. Crossing the famous Charles Bridge across the Vltava, we also visited Týn Church and Prague Castle. Gaining altitude, we reached the summit of Petřín Hill and enjoyed stunning views of Prague in all directions from the top of the Petřín Observation Tower.

Nearby was a local gem not to be overlooked -- Štefánik's Observatory, founded in 1928 and named after Slovak astronomer Milan Rastislav Štefánik. The main telescope of the observatory is a double refractor by Zeiss, placed in the main dome by Viennese selenographer König. A mirror was installed in the western dome in 1976, with the eastern dome used for scientific observations. Since 1999, the observatory has been equipped with a 40cm mirror telescope by Meade.

Thankfully, the weather stayed dry despite being overcast with rain consistently forecast for the week. Although our time was over before we knew it, we returned proud in the knowledge that we had contributed to one of the most prestigious space conferences in the world. We would like to thank the Lunchsat team for their ongoing efforts, our colleagues, followers and enthusiasts for their support, and Astrium for providing such an incredible opportunity.

Videos of the plenaries, lectures and news sessions as part of the IAC 2010 Public Programme can be viewed on the IAC 2010 website. Presentations of other nano-satellite projects featured at the Congress can be downloaded from the webpages of the Nanosatellite Fair.

The next Congress will be held in Cape Town on 3-7 October 2011. For details, to apply and to submit an abstract, see the website for the next IAC 2011 and the Call for Papers. The IAC is hosted annually by the International Astronautical Federation, 'connecting space people'. For more information, visit the IAF website.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Lunchsat accepted for IAC 2010

Following the submission of their abstracts in March, three members of the Lunchsat team have been invited to write their papers and present at the International Astronautical Congress in Prague.

The abstracts were written and submitted individually by Nick Fishwick (Project Management), Jason Stones (Media) and Tom Stuttard (Systems, Power), who have been chosen to attend the IAC conference for this year, to be held in Prague from 27 September to 1 October.

The abstracts that secured a place at the Congress for the three successful applicants follow below.

"LunchSat", A Training Programme for Young Professionals in EADS Astrium to Build a Nano-Satellite
Nick Fishwick

The paper by Nick Fishwick, "LunchSat, a training programme for young professionals in EADS Astrium to build a nano-satellite", has been selected for presentation at the Space Education and Outreach Symposium (E1) during the seventh session, "Space Workforce Development: Challenges and Opportunities". This session will focus on challenges, opportunities and innovative solutions for attracting, improving and retaining the future and current global space workforce.

"The “LunchSat” training programme was started in the UK satellites division of EADS Astrium to provide young professionals at the start of their career the opportunity to design, build and test their own nano-satellite. The activity is performed alongside their day-to-day jobs and it delivers a complete overview of the whole process of making satellites. It is a unique programme within space industry prime contractors for further dynamic education of new entrants to the space industry, which promotes both links to universities as payload providers and contributes to the award winning Astrium outreach programme. The LunchSat project clearly increases the appeal of Astrium and the space industry to graduates as it provides early experience of real flight hardware and the critical problem solving required to launch and operate a satellite, which can then be applied to other larger missions.

"LunchSat is a three unit Cube-Sat, based on the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies successful CanX-2 mission. The satellite is scheduled to be flight ready in 2012 and it is envisaged that it will piggy-back with a large commercial Astrium satellite. LunchSat has a monochrome CMOS imager and other payloads are being currently selected. The platform will be used as a technology demonstrator for Astrium internal developments and has space reserved for science experiments from UK universities. Two ground stations have been commissioned at both the Portsmouth and Stevenage Astrium UK sites which will be used to control the satellite. The ground stations can also be used for Astrium in-orbit satellite operator training and provide outreach opportunities to local school children.

"LunchSat fulfils its programmatic objectives by providing the team members with a complete understanding of the design, development and implementation cycle of a complete satellite programme within a short timescale, as well as letting them work with real hardware and test constraints. Building a Cube-Sat within a large space prime contractor has allowed for use of a wide range of facilities and access to senior engineers’ experience. The programme also lets the young professionals take responsibility for managing entire satellite systems many years before they would normally do so during their careers.

"This paper discusses the implementation, logistics and educational benefits of the Astrium “LunchSat“ training programme for young professionals starting their careers in space. Such a programme could be applied to other space prime contractors to facilitate the training of the next generation of senior space engineers."

The Potential of Innovative Outreach from Cube-Sat Programmes
Jason Stones

Session chairs Yolanda Berenguer of UNESCO and Olga Zhdanovich of ESA selected the paper by Jason Stones, "The Potential of Innovative Outreach from Cube-Sat Programmes", for inclusion and presentation at the Space Education and Outreach Symposium (E1) during the third session, "Calling Planet Earth: Space Outreach to the General Public". It will be the 13th paper to be presented on Wednesday 29 September at 15:15, alongside other presentations by space industry professionals including representatives from the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.

"This paper reflects the heritage, progress and ambitions of LunchSat, a graduate training programme of EADS Astrium, in its capacity to serve as a valuable demonstrator of ongoing Cube-Sat projects for the benefit of outreach and public awareness of space.

"LunchSat provides graduate training through a nano-satellite project, allowing its members to gain experience in how satellites are developed. Appreciation of a whole satellite project is possible due to the scaled down development associated with nano-satellites in terms of reduced size, costs and overhead.

"The deployment of LunchSat outreach strategies is resulting in tangible benefits for both the project and the public. For example, visibility of the LunchSat project through websites and social networking on the Internet is allowing a propagation of information to external communities through intermediaries and enthusiasts. This has strengthened relationships with online suppliers, reconnected previous project members and is working to connect project expertise and inspire the interested public.

"The UK Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network (STEMNET) is a key asset to LunchSat outreach. Astrium has a strong community of STEM ambassadors distributed across its pan-European workforce, enabling the company to effectively promote the need for space exploration and communicate down-to-Earth advantages of space for the benefit of society, in establishments across borders. Through this scheme LunchSat has received the praise of politicians and representatives from across industry, including UKspace, the trade association for the British space sector. Recognition at these levels is critical if such space projects are to benefit from future budget allocations.

"Project members have completed training in amateur radio to link with the nano-satellite in orbit from ground stations post-launch; such communication could well extend outreach to the International Space Station. Schoolchildren would be able to interview the astronauts on-board the ISS via LunchSat infrastructure, as part of a possible outreach initiative with ARISS. Future outreach envisages school visits and workshop tours, university talks to connect the project with the campus outreach initiatives of Astrium, and exposure through TV, radio and printed media.

"The importance of outreach is being recognised. Projects such as LunchSat, and the outreach initiatives that follow, could therefore prove a valuable catalyst in the realisation of this future vision to promote space for human benefit and exploration."

Systems Engineering, Operations and Payload Interfacing in Cube-Sats
Tom Stuttard

The paper by Tom Stuttard, "Systems Engineering, Operations and Payload Interfacing in Cube-Sats", has also been selected for presentation at the 2010 Congress. His paper will feature at the Small Satellite Missions Symposium (B4) during the sixth session, "Design and Technology for Nano-Sats and Cube-Sats".

"Cube-Sats provide a considerable challenge to systems engineering, with minimal power and mass constraints being carefully managed to provide maximum scientific gain. This paper outlines the particular considerations and difficulties in the systems engineering requirements of the “LunchSat project”, a Cube-Sat mission currently being designed by members of the graduate scheme at EADS Astrium UK. Comparisons to the systems engineering solutions implemented in other Cube-Sat missions are also drawn.

"One challenge of the systems engineering of the LunchSat described here involves the successful overseeing of concurrent and inter-dependent design and analysis work in varying subsystems. The co-investigation of multiple and significantly differing attitude control systems in particular strongly drives the interfacing to other systems, including thermal analysis and payload operation. Uncertainty in the solar cell capabilities are another factor, which limit the understanding of the potential operation of power-hungry subsystems such as communications. In addition to internal interfacing within the project, focus is given to the challenge of producing comprehensive payload interfacing requirements to potential external suppliers. The definition of an accurate but flexible interface during a stage where many subsystems are still undergoing rapid and significant development has been one of the major recent undertakings of the systems engineering team.

"The related problem of operations under these subsystem constraints is also presented. The development of the project without a clear definition of the available launch options requires careful planning and contingency to enable successful operation of the satellite in various orbits and attitudes with little or no technical changes to the LunchSat design. The steps taken in this field are described, with reference to the systems engineering decisions made to implement this flexibility.

"Following the descriptions of these technical activities, an overview of the upcoming challenges for the LunchSat systems engineering is presented with reference to the envisaged solutions. Finally, a mention is made of the benefits gained from this systems engineering work in terms of both professional development and application to larger space craft."

The lucky three are proud to be presenting Lunchsat to the global space community on behalf of the team and Astrium. They will spend the week at IAC 2010 -- the largest conference of the international space calendar -- ahead of further plans to unveil the microsatellite in Winchester, as part of the Astrium contribution to World Space Week celebrations at the start of October.

In the meantime, visit the IAC 2010 conference website for more details of the Technical Programme for the week. Watch this space for all the latest from Prague!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Concluding another successful year of Lunchsat

A successful End-of-Year Management Review has concluded progress on the Lunchsat project for the year 2009-10.

The Management Review is an annual opportunity for the Lunchsat team to express the achievement made on the project to senior management including Pat Wood, the Chief Technical Officer of Astrium Satellites.

Project lead Nick Fishwick has thanked the entire Lunchsat team following a successful Management Review, which saw senior Astrium managers Pat Wood, Nick Chesher and Bob Baldwin, along with the line managers of some of the team members, attend a summary of what has been achieved over the last year.

The networking event was held in the Stevenage Viewing Gallery; the presentation was delivered by Nick alongside Chris Lord (Communications) and Natasha Pushkin (Thermal), who provided overviews of their respective subsystems and also told of their experiences of working on the Lunchsat initiative.

In an open email sent to the team, Nick has thanked 'everyone who has contributed to the project this year, a lot has been achieved thanks to all your efforts'.

"Highlights include the passive ADCS trade-off, the solar array power testing, the Portsmouth Groundstation installation and radio licences and the increased characterisation of the OBC and Communications chain.

"We had some great comments, ideas and news from Pat Wood and other managers from the review [...] there are still some focused tasks which need to be worked on in the coming weeks before the new LunchSat year restarts in October with the new graduate intake. I will be talking to sub-systems individually about these in the next few weeks."

Astrium managers reflected on the achievements made and offered valuable advice to the team following the session.

Summary of feedback

In acknowledgement that 'finding a good payload is essential to getting a launch', a recommendation was made by Pat Wood to research a new L-band payload as an option, particularly as funding may be available from a satellite operator such as Inmarsat. Pat was also interested in the potential for internal R&D and the funding mechanisms that would support the development of such payloads.

Nick Chesher provided additional input, suggesting that we can look to Astrium Space Transportation, Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) and small-medium enterprises (SMEs) for support with launchers and payloads. The fact that SSTL have begun their own cubesat training programme after witnessing the success of Lunchsat is fantastic news.

Nick concluded his congratulations by looking ahead: "The logistics of next year and how the current team will change with the new graduate intake will also be assessed and you will all hear about the plans for next LunchSat year soon."

So watch this space...

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Good impressions follow a successful Systems Review

Project lead Nick Fishwick has thanked the Lunchsat team for the work that has been achieved in the run-up to the Systems Review held today, and is pleased the team has 'been able to show real progress for the year'.

Nick began the review with an introduction to the project, before handing over to Graham Johnson (Systems) who has recently provided input as subsystem supervisor for the new Mission and Subsystems Requirements document and as such, gave insight into the mission objectives for the review. These were followed up with a detailed run-through of progress made in the ADCS, Thermal, Power and Mechanical subsystems.

This continued into the next hour, with Tom Stuttard (Systems, Power) providing an overview of the new Operations subsystem before the work achieved with the On-Board Computer (OBC), Communications, Imager and Groundstations was described. Tim Mead (Power) concluded the technical breakdown of achievements made with his overview of the payload. The experts issued valuable guidance to the team, providing feedback of the session and offering their advice on how the subsystems should progress into the next year as development on the microsatellite continues.

Also in attendance amongst the experts were project champions Ronan Wall and Neil Dunbar, who both expressed their positive impressions of the project -- in particular, on the progress made with power testing.

In the meantime, work continues to conclude subsystem documentation ahead of the Management Review to be held next month, to which senior management will be invited for a debrief on the progress made in the past year.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Ideas fit for a payload

The final formal afternoon session for Lunchsat this year, scheduled to be held tomorrow, is set to take a departure from the usual format -- as members of the team begin to generate ideas for a new payload.

In an unprecedented brainstorming session for the project, team members from the systems and operations subsystems will be developing novel ideas for a new payload for Lunchsat, in an attempt to distinguish the project from the cubesats that have gone before.

Tomorrow's meeting will begin with a general discussion and subsystem roundup, to identify outstanding work in the usual afternoon session format. This is to be followed by the payload brainstorming session, set to last up to an hour, before a briefing of the Systems Review format and summary meeting conclude the afternoon session.

The imager currently forms the primary payload for Lunchsat, although the CanX-2 chassis, upon which the cubesat is based, has the volume to accommodate additional flight hardware. As such, there is a need to research options for additional instrumentation, within the constraints of physical volume and cost. This is of particular importance from a launch perspective, as the European Space Agency selects to financially assist the launch of missions based on the scientific merit of their payloads.

As such, further research into payload options could derive from in-house research and development, or assistance from external sources via collaboration as part of the wider Cubesat Research Network (CRN). Over the longer-term, it is anticipated that payload design and development is to be realised internally, within the Lunchsat team.

At present, the current imager will be responsible for accomplishing the main objective of Lunchsat -- to provide colour images of the Earth from low-Earth orbit for the assessment of weather conditions at a resolution reasonable enough to show basic topographical features. Reflecting the capability of modern meteorological satellites, one option to extend the payload toolkit of Lunchsat would be to install sensors and instrumentation to monitor and track the weather conditions of Earth and the immediate space environment. The main challenge remains however -- to achieve such an extension of functionality while keeping to the tight cost constraints realistic for a microsatellite.

Other project work planned for the final afternoon session of the year include the completion of subsystem summary documentation, the updating of work package descriptions to assist the handover from the current team to the incoming graduate intake, and the conclusion of any other outstanding issues.

For more information on the results of the research into payload options, refer to the Payload section of the Lunchsat website.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Mission requirements document finalised

The Lunchsat team has completed work on the final draft of the Mission and Subsystems Requirements document, summarising the requirements of the project and defining mission objectives, top-level and spacecraft requirements.

The document summarises the objectives and requirements of the Lunchsat mission in terms of cost and lifetime, as well as those of its space segment and two groundstations, and of its future launcher. The document goes on to define requirements of the spacecraft by mass, communications and of the mechanical, thermal and power subsystems, concluding general survivability in the harsh environment of space.

The requirements outlined in this document will form the basis of future subsystem test plans, to verify that the subsystems are being designed in accordance with their required function, and that they have indeed met their requirements.

The Mission and Subsystems Requirements document is the result of collaboration between the Lunchsat subsystem leads, including Fatou Mbaye (Systems) and Julia Ryan (Mechanical) reporting to project lead Nick Fishwick. Graham Johnson (Systems) also provided contributions as subsystem advisor.

For more information, consult the Media area of the Lunchsat website.