30 years ago garbage in space wasn’t a major concern, today however it is one of the dominating topics in the space industry. With an increasing count of space launches, the amount of discarded objects in orbit is steadily climbing. Satellites that have reached the end of their life span are usually just left unattended or moved into a graveyard orbit, further increasing the amount of space debris and the possibility of a collision.
To mitigate the risk of collisions, more data about the characteristics of this so-called space debris needs to be gathered in order to improve predictions about its trajectory. Thus allowing still operational satellites or space stations to perform evasive maneuvers.
This is the reason why we have made it our mission to test satellite identification technologies with our CubeSat. Furthermore, we want to measure the spin rate of the satellite by optical observations and increase the tracking precision. These technologies provide information about the CubeSat’s attitude, position, and movement in space, which can be used to mitigate further space debris.
Our primary mission consists of two main components: A combined set of retroreflectors and retroreflective foil and a radio beacon.
The retroreflectors and retroreflective foils are completely passive systems. Retroreflective foils are an everyday technology: they can be e.g. found in the form of cats‘ eyes in the spokes of bicycles. The retroreflectors for the satellite play a very similar role to those on a bicycle. Illuminated by a light source, they are easily and quickly recognizable and signal to the observer where the cyclist (or here the satellite) is, in which direction, and how fast he is moving. Similarly, however, we use a ground station with a laser as an observer to determine the orbit and spin rate of the satellite. This procedure works independently of the satellite itself so that even in case the satellite is defective or contact with the satellite cannot be established, it is possible to record the satellite dynamics.
The tasks of the Missions Subsection include the analysis and definition of mission requirements. This also includes drafting operational concepts for the missions. Furthermore, we also take care of the mission payload, the mission components later installed on the satellite such as the radio beacon and the reflectors.
In cooperation with Darmstadt-based scientists, we will also fly two additional experiments onboard:
- Gamma radiation Module: A small probe to measure gamma radiation in low earth orbit
- Charged Measurement Experiment: Create a map of the density of charged particles and matter in earth’s orbit
To increase media awareness and showcase the beauty of Earth, we decided to include a camera onboard the satellite to shoot pictures and a small time-lapse. This allows us to better reach out to fellow students and others to increase interest in space projects like ours.
Another goal is to share what we have learned. To do so we are making our hardware designs and the software we wrote public under open source licenses. This will help others with their missions or projects and benefit the community.
Then why not drop by one of our meetings. Our weekly meeting takes place every Wednesday at 19:00 in room S3|06 509 (Hans Busch Institute) and on discord in the voice channel #cs_mission. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the CubeSat Project Management.