System Design and Fabrication for Microsatellite Relative Navigation Experiment
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Satellites are a critical element of the modern world, and designers continue to increase their capability while significantly reducing their size, which has put space missions within the reach of Universities. Microsatellites in the 10-100 kg size class are now able to perform a sizable amount of tasks in a relatively small and inexpensive package. Texas A&M University's second foray into space featured a 50 kg microsatellite designed and manufactured by students within the AggieSat Lab Student Satellite Program. AggieSat4 was the second satellite fielded by AggieSat Lab under the NASA Low-earth Orbiting Navigation Experiment for Spacecraft Testing Autonomous Rendezvous and docking (LONESTAR) campaign. The LONESTAR campaign's goal was to partner design labs from Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin to build pairs of satellites to perform navigation experiments. A series of four missions would culminate with the two paired spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking. AggieSat4 was designed and fabricated from 2010 to 2015, delivered to the International Space Station in December 2015, and released into low Earth orbit in January 2016. During this process a great deal of knowledge was gained by the students as to how to design a spacecraft mission to meet a set of requirements, how to design and engineer a spacecraft to carry out this mission, and how to fabricate and assemble the spacecraft as designed. Many tips, tricks, and lessons from hindsight were learned along the way. The requirements and mission concept of operations development for AggieSat4 will be presented, along with the engineering design process, resulting configuration, fabrication process, and some of the tips, tricks, and lessons learned. These topics can serve as a starting guide for students and others designing their own space missions, with the goal of helping them identify the processes and items of consideration to help meet their mission requirements.
Tucker, Andrew Lewis (2021). System Design and Fabrication for Microsatellite Relative Navigation Experiment. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from