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.

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