Characterizing CubeSat Deployer Dynamics in a Microgravity Environment

PI: Kira Abercromby, California Polytechnic State University - SLO

The Nano-Launch Vehicle CubeSat Deployer (NLV CD) and Poly-Picosatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD) are two CubeSat deployment systems that have been designed and produced by the Cal Poly CubeSat Program for supporting NASA’s Education Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) missions. As a result of the industry’s growing demand for space access, the NLV CD has recently been developed as a primary payload for nanoclass launch vehicles. Conversely, the P-POD represents the CubeSat Program’s standard deployment system, flying as a secondary payload on 12 launches and successfully deploying over 51 CubeSats into orbit. It is clear that observing the interactions and deployment dynamics of the NLV CD and P-POD systems within the operational environment is important to understanding the CubeSats’ dynamic state following deployment. As a solution, the CubeSat Program will test both systems within a microgravity environment aboard two parabolic flights within the same campaign.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA12 Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems and Manufacturing
Problem Statement

As the number of CubeSat developers increase, successfully characterizing CubeSat deployment dynamics becomes critical. Accurately understanding CubeSat tumble rates, deployment cone, and tip-off of CubeSats immediately after deployment is essential data for CubeSat mission success. However, due to the complexity of collecting in-situ on orbit deployment data, it is difficult to provide the information to developers. In addition, the interactions between the deployers and the CubeSats have never been observed on orbit, and better analysis is essential to mitigating potential risks to mission success.

Technology Maturation

Both systems will undergo testing within a microgravity environment aboard two parabolic flights within the same campaign. The first flight will test the dynamics of the NLV CD system, while the second flight will test the P-POD dynamics and CubeSat to P-POD interactions incorporating onboard magnets. The NLV CD design and P-POD deployment dynamics are currently considered TRL 4, and will progress to TRL 6 and 7, respectively, following the conclusion of the experiment.

Future Customers

Cubesat community

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    AFO6 (Jun 2013)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    TRL 4
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 Parabolic

Development Team

  • PI
    Kira Abercromby
  • Organization
    California Polytechnic State University - SLO
  • Sponsor
    Cal Poly Corporation

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