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Build a CubeSat Satellite that actually works, Part 2: Make it Reliable

Bill Marshall
Engineer, PhD, lecturer, freelance technical writer, blogger & tweeter interested in robots, AI, planetary explorers and all things electronic. STEM ambassador. Designed, built and programmed my first microcomputer in 1976. Still learning, still building, still coding today.


January 7, 2019 08:36

POSTSCRIPT 2. Here is a link to the technical details of CubeSat M-Cubed launched in 2011. It has a couple of 'low-cost' features: one that worked and one that had an unforeseen problem.
The simple dipole antenna is made from two strips of spring-steel anchored at one end, wrapped around the satellite and secured by the burn-wire deployment system described above. A simple tape measure provides the spring steel and while not optimal, it makes for a very cheap and reliable deployable antenna.
The passive attitude control system consists of a permanent magnet with additional magnetic hysteresis materials aligned on each additional perpendicular body axis. It aligns the satellite with the Earth's magnetic field. Soon after launch it became apparent that M-Cubed was stuck to another Cubesat launched at the same time. It is thought that the magnets aboard each satellite may be responsible! Oops.

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December 27, 2018 02:28

POSTSCRIPT: Until I started doing some research for these two CubeSat articles, I hadn't fully appreciated the importance of the Watchdog timer in spacecraft controller design. Careful design of a watchdog system can lead to fault recovery without the expensive loss of a space vehicle or a repair robot inside a damaged nuclear reactor. I recommend reading this article by Jack Ganssle to find out just how difficult it is to cover all possible failure modes. But it's worth the effort.

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