Space Systems

Introduction

Although the satellite research group at the ESL can claim the heritage of the well-known SUNSAT (1999) and SumbandilaSat (2009) missions, the current focus is on the attitude determination and control subsystems (ADCS) of CubeSats. CubeSats are nano-satellites constructed from 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm (or 1U) cubes. They are an effective, low-cost platform for academic institutions around the world to familiarise themselves with the ever-expanding field of satellite systems.

The research conducted by our group is aimed at both CubeSat ADCS hardware and software. The hardware includes miniature actuators, sensors, interface boards, and even an on-board computer for a CubeSat. Our software research entails the development of among others ADCS algorithms, a real-time operating system, and communication protocols for small satellites.

We are currently also building ZA-AeroSat (click here to visit the ZA-AeroSat Facebook page), our own 2U CubeSat (i.e. 20 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm) as part of the QB50 project. The QB50 project is aimed constructing an accurate model of the troposphere using 50 CubeSats, each housing one of three science payloads (or sensors).