University of Alabama - Huntsville (UAH) CubeSat Parabolic Flight Testing

PI: Francis Wessling, University of Alabama - Huntsville

The UAHuntsville CubeSat is a student satellite development project to design, build, test, and operate an orbital picosatellite. The program has a primary focus of designing a 1U CubeSat system that accomplishes three primary technology demonstrations: (1) passive nadir axis stabilization for picosatellite attitude control, (2) improved communications for a stabilized 1U satellite system, and (3) deployable solar panels for increased solar power collection on a picosatellite system. The opportunity to perform microgravity deployment tests on a parabolic aircraft will increase the technology readiness level of the CubeSat deployment mechanisms to TRL 6 and will improve the understanding of how the deployable systems react in the unconstrained microgravity environment. This will allow mechanical functioning of the hardware and verification of the attitude stabilization modeling.

ChargerSat-1 launch

2nd generation ChargerSat testing continued under T0056.

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

There are two mission objectives for this experiment. The first is to verify that the models and simulations of our CubeSat deployables are accurate by testing the deployables in a microgravity environment and recording inertial sensor data during deployment. The second is to verify that the deployment mechanism for each deployable operates as expected with no problems.

Technology Maturation

The testing would allow us to test a full prototype, including all of the mechanical systems, of our CubeSat in a relevant environment. As partial software integration will also be required for the testing, our TRL after the proposed testing will be 6.

Future Customers

The applications of this technology could be used in most CubeSats because it improves technology in power via the solar panel array, communications via the monopole antenna, and attitude stabilization via the gravity gradient boom, all of which are necessary for satellite operations.

Flight Experiment Objectives

There are five deployables that we need to test. We will trigger one deployable per parabolic arc until all deployables have been triggered.

Payload Description

The payload is currently in the prototype development phase. The design has not been flown before. The parabolic flight configuration is that of the orbital flight configuration with an additional protective frame to prevent direct impact to the fragile CubeSat systems. The flight environment will be a free floating payload allowing accurate reaction rates to be measured during each test.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    AFO3 (Mar 2012)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    TRL 6
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 1 Parabolic

Development Team

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