Launching the UK’s first CubeSat mission

Written by: maxon motor UK Ltd | Published:

Scottish based business Clyde Space, is exploring new and exciting opportunities using Nano-satellites controlled by brushless dc motors from maxon motor uk.

UKube-1, built by the groundbreaking company, is the UK's first CubeSat mission and Scotland's first satellite. Its journey into space has been booked on a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket and is expected to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrone in Kazakhstan in March 2013.

Payloads in UKube-1 include the first GPS device aimed at measuring plasmaspheric space weather, a camera to take images of the Earth and test the effect of radiation on space hardware using a new generation of imaging sensor; an experiment to demonstrate the feasibility of using cosmic radiation to improve the security of communications satellites and flight test lower cost electronic systems. It will also carry five experiments that UK students and the public can interact with and an outreach programme that also allows school children to interact with the spacecraft.

Nano-satellites, or CubeSat's, are miniaturised satellites used in space research and exploration and generally measure 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm with a mass of less than 1 kg. The design has been developed to enable workable satellites to be produced at low cost for research purposes.

maxon motor uk and Clyde Space together have developed a full 3 axis attitude control system based on torque reaction positioning system that uses a reaction/momentum fly wheel. The reaction wheel is driven by a maxon brushless dc motor. By changing the speed of the flywheel a reactionary torque is applied to rotate the CubeSat around an axis and by maintaining the rotation the CubeSat is stablised. Several reaction/momentum wheels are used to provide full three axis attitude control and stability. Clyde required a cost effective solution and chose a standard off the shelf maxon brushless DC motor 20mm diameter and maxon motor then modified the product to meet the application environment and supplied and fitted the flywheel, as well as dynamically balancing the complete assembly.

Clyde Space are working with maxon to improve the future CubeSat attitude control; improvements would open the oportunity to even greater applications for these Nano-satallites, such as earth observation with high resolution camera's or transmitting high bandwidth data, space science, astronomy and verification of new technologies in orbit.

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