DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 33. Planetary Bookends II
Poster, Highlighted on, Friday, September 5, 2003, 3:30-6:00pm, Sierra Ballroom I-II

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[33.03] The University of Arizona Nanosat Program: Making Space accessible to scientific and commercial packages.

U. Fink, R.A. Fevig (LPL, University of Arizona)

For the last couple of years we have been engaged in building nanosatellites within a student-mentor framework. The satellites are 10x10x10cm cubes, have a maximum mass of 1 kg, and power of a few watts. The standardized "cube-sat" form factor was suggested by Bob Twiggs of Stanford University so that a common launch platform could be utilized and more Universities could participate.

We have now built four "cube-sats': a launchable Engineering model, Rincon 1 & 2, (funded by Rincon corporation), and Alcatel funded by Alcatel Espace. The costs for the four satellites are ~$250,000. Launch costs using a Russian SS-18 are typically $10,000 per kg. The payload for Rincon 1 & 2 is a sophisticated telecommunications board using only 10 mw of transmitting power. The Alcatel payload consists of three communications IC's whose radiation exposure and annealing properties will be studied over a period of years.

Future nanosatellites will have considerable value in providing low cost access to space for experiments in nanotechnology, space electronics, micropropulsion, radiation experiments, astrobionics and climate change studies. For the latter area we are considering experiments to monitor the solar constant, the solar UV spectrum, the chromospheric activity through the Mg II index, the Earth's Albedo, etc.

For this purpose we are developing a slightly larger satellite, 20x20x20cm and 10 kg. We have built a C-MOS camera with a 1 ms exposure time for attitude determination, and we are working with Honeywell Industries to develop micro-reaction wheels for attitude control. We are also working on micro-propulsion units with the Air Force and several aerospace companies. Preliminary calculations show that we can develop delta-V's of ~5km/s which will allow us to visit ~5% (about 100) of the NEA population or possibly some comets.

We firmly believe a vigorous nanosatellite program will allow useful space experiments for costs of millions of Dollars instead of the present tens of millions of Dollars. This will make space available to a much wider audience and larger range of experiments. As is always the case with such new breakthroughs, new technologies, new scientific insights, and new job-producing spin-offs will result.

This work was supported by grants from Rincon Research Corporation of Tucson, Az (whose CEO Mike Parker graciously provided us with start-up funds), the Arizona Commerce Department, the NASA Space Grant Consortium, Alcatel Espace, Toulouse, France and various Colleges and Departments of the University of Arizona.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.