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

Bill Marshall
2
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.

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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.
https://earth.esa.int/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/m/m3-mcubed
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.
http://www.ganssle.com/item/great-watchdog-timers.htm

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