This article highlights the importance of customized ADCS algorithms for spacecraft and how it is highly reliable for demanding NewSpace missions.
It also features products from COMAT and the experience of one of its customers in utilizing these solutions.
The emergence of NewSpace applications has increased the commercial demand in the global market
Satellite technology has advanced significantly in recent years, primarily due to the commercialization of NewSpace technologies, allowing the commercial deployment of spacecraft for a variety of applications ranging from Earth Observation (EO) to communications. As satellite capabilities improve, so do the expectations put on their operation and reliability, especially for missions with rigorous requirements.
Therefore, the Attitude Determination and Control System (ADCS) is a vital part of satellite design and operation that plays a critical role in mission accomplishment. In the further sections of the article, we will look at how it is crucial for satellite manufacturers to master their own ADCS algorithm and ensure the dependability of their components.
What is ADCS and why is it important for space missions?
The ADCS is a critical component of every spacecraft that is in charge of maintaining the appropriate attitude, or orientation, in space. Accurate and consistent attitude control is critical for mission success because it guarantees that the satellite’s sensors, antennas, and instruments are pointing in the desired direction. The ADCS is made up of two major components – attitude determination and attitude control.
The determination of the satellite’s orientation in relation to reference points such as the Earth, the Sun, or distant stars is known as attitude determination. On the other hand, attitude control includes altering the satellite’s attitude using actuators such as reaction wheels, magnetic torquers, or thrusters.
Precision is one of the primary factors that define the quality of ADCS. For example, an EO or weather satellite must be able to point its sensors toward specified locations in order to collect desired data, whereas communication satellites must precisely point their antennas at Earth-based receivers in order to maintain consistent contact.
As the NewSpace technologies have flourished in the global commercial space market, the “low cost and high-quality innovative product” motive is highly integrated into the commercial sector. Of all the components utilized in the satellite, ADCS also contributes to energy efficiency capabilities. The propulsion systems or thrusters primarily rely on ADCS to make the most use of the energy-efficiency resources. Satellites may make the most of their limited fuel supply by optimizing their attitude and orbit.
Solutions provided by COMAT
COMAT’s footprint in the commercial NewSpace sector is well-known and has provided solutions to several space missions in the industry. Along with a range of reaction wheels, the company also develops a solar array drive mechanism. COMAT’s product listings are as follows:
The COMAT SADM 200 is a plug & play Solar Array Drive Mechanism for small satellites to optimize onboard power generation.
The COMAT Reaction Wheels 40 is designed for detumbling, attitude control, and torque or angular rate control of nanosatellites with a mean torque of 4 mNm. The system is fully characterized and qualified according to the European Cooperation for Space Standardization (ECSS) and has an 8 years lifetime duration.
The COMAT Reaction Wheels 20 is designed for detumbling, attitude control, and torque or angular rate control of nanosatellites with a mean torque of 2 mNm. The system is fully characterized and qualified according to the European Cooperation for Space Standardization (ECSS) and has an 8 years lifetime duration.
The COMAT Reaction Wheels 180 is designed for nanosatellite missions. It weighs less than 550 grams and has the ability to operate in temperatures ranging between -30°C and +50 °C. The reaction wheel consists of embedded electronics with a compact design. It has RS 485 full duplex data interface and NSP communication protocol.
The COMAT Reaction Wheels 60 is designed for detumbling, attitude control, and torque or angular rate control of nanosatellites with a mean torque of 6 mNm. The system is fully characterized and qualified according to the European Cooperation for Space Standardization (ECSS) and has an 8 years lifetime duration.
Importance of customized algorithm for ADCS and the experience of U-Space team
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Satellite manufacturers can choose between off-the-shelf and customized ADCS algorithms, depending on the mission requirements. The off-the-shelf algorithms provide a generic solution and might be a good choice for basic missions with lower demands. A customised ADCS algorithm on the other hand is important for demanding missions like high-resolution EO satellites or a spacecraft deployed for removing space debris.
COMAT has also provided its products and solutions to one of the well-known NewSpace companies, U-Space. According to U-Space’s Cyril Brotons, VP of Industrial Strategy & Products, “Demanding satellite missions often have specific and challenging requirements, such as high-precision pointing, stable observation, or complex maneuvers. By developing our own ADCS algorithm, it allows us to tailor the system to meet these unique mission objectives, increasing the likelihood of mission success.”
Customized ADCS algorithms optimize performance by using the satellite’s specific attributes and operational environment. These algorithms take into account aspects such as the satellite’s form, mass distribution, propulsion system, and sensor suite. Satellite manufacturers may maximize performance, efficiency, and mission success by fine-tuning the ADCS to the mission’s unique demands.
By building the ADCS from scratch, the manufacturers can then make sure to select the most beneficial hardware components on the market, including the star trackers, magnetometers, and reaction wheels. “Low-quality or poorly calibrated reaction wheels can introduce vibrations and jitter into the satellite’s attitude control system. These disturbances can negatively impact the satellite’s ability to capture clear images, maintain stable communication links, or conduct precise scientific experiments. High-quality reaction wheels help minimize such disturbances, resulting in better data quality” adds Cyril Brotons.
In a broader view, helping customers master their own ADCS algorithm and ensuring the reliability of its components, particularly reaction wheels, are critical for satellite manufacturers to successfully execute demanding missions. These capabilities allow manufacturers to customize solutions, maintain control over technology, reduce risks, enhance competitiveness, and optimize performance to meet the specific needs of each mission, ultimately increasing the likelihood of mission success in the challenging and dynamic environment of space.
To find out more about COMAT, please view their supplier hub here on satsearch.