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“Selfie” of CAN in space

Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) has announced the successful launch of TechDemoSat-1, an in-orbit technology demonstration mission for UK spacecraft equipment and software. The satellite’s internal communication runs via a CAN network.

The satellite flies more than 25 new developments (Photo: SSTL)

THE SPACECRAFT WAS LAUNCHED into a 635-km sun-synchronous orbit on board a Soyuz-2 launch vehicle with a Fregat upper stage from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 15:58:28 UTC, July 8, 2014. Following confirmation of separation from the launch vehicle, the ground station at the Satellite Applications Catapult Operations Centre at Harwell established contact with the satellite on its first pass and commissioning of the platform has begun. TechDemoSat-1 is the first satellite to be operated from the company’s facility at Harwell (UK).

At around one meter cubed (roughly the size of a refrigerator or a dishwasher) and a mass of around 150 kg, the satellite carries a mixture of heritage and new product development systems.
The propulsion system received a smaller tank size trialed with a resistor jet thruster along with sun sensors in the Altitude and Orbital Control System (AOCS) adding increased accuracy to the sensors previously used. The total amount of technology on board has thus led the internal communication system to be operated on an upgraded CAN network ensuring noise immunity, and minimal contention between nodes. The satellite is based on the SSTL-150 platform and is part-funded by a grant from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board, and Seeda (South East England Development Agency). The spacecraft carries eight separate payloads from UK academia and industry, providing in-orbit validation for new technologies.

The satellite flies more than 25 new developments (Photo: SSTL)

The payloads flying on the satellite include a flexible miniature radiation and effects monitor; a prototype compact instrument to detect electrons and ions; a lightweight, radiation monitor designed to measure total radiation dose, particle flux rate, and identify electrons, protons and ions; a device to measure characterization of the energy, type, intensity, and directionality of high energy particles; a modular infrared remote sensing radiometer unit; a de-orbit sail; a 3-axes attitude determination and control subsystem; and a device using an enhanced GPS receiver to monitor reflected signals to determine ocean roughness. Commissioning of the payloads on board the satellite will be performed by SSTL via its own Mission Control Centre in Guildford, before handing over day-to-day operation of the payloads back to Catapult. SSTL will continue to manage spacecraft level monitoring and operations for TechDemoSat-1 in Guildford.

The company has also released a “selfie” of the satellite, which was taken by an inspection camera on board to mark the completion of the Launch and Early Operations Phase (LEOP) on July 25th 2014. The LEOP phase immediately after the launch is the first part of the in-orbit commissioning process for the satellite - a managed series of tests and operations to check out the functionality of the key operating systems, such as power, communications, propulsion, attitude control and on board computing.

The satellite flies more than 25 new developments (Photo: SSTL)

The image was taken minutes after the separation of the satellite from the Soyuz-2 launcher and shows a view of the Earth from space, with the spacecraft’s antenna pointing mechanism in shot. The inspection camera is mounted on the exterior of the spacecraft, and will monitor the behavior of key mechanical payloads. It combines a color CMOS camera with a machine vision lens. Both the camera and lens were stripped down and ruggedized to survive the vibration and shock loads experienced during launch.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “The successful launch of TechDemoSat-1 has given UK space companies a unique opportunity to test their cutting-edge technologies in orbit. These innovators can now show investors and potential customers how their products perform in the harsh environment of space. TechDemoSat-1 is also the first satellite to be controlled by the Satellite Applications Catapult. This was established by the Government to harness the success of the UK space sector and its world-leading companies like SSTL.”

Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) is a small satellite company, delivering operational space missions for a range of applications including Earth observation, science and communications. The company designs, manufactures and operates high performance satellites and ground systems. Since 1981 the company has built and launched 43 satellites.

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