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Warwick University Satellite Project

  • WUSAT-3

  • WUSAT-2

  • WUSAT-1

Project Details

WUSAT-3 will be a 3-unit CubeSat satellite carrying a ‘High-Resolution Direction Finder’ payload. It will be designed to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) from where it will be deployed into a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO, approx. 400km altitude) by a Nanoracks CubeSat deployment mechanism already installed on the ISS.

The objective of WUSAT-3 will be to emulate the ICARUS wildlife monitoring system that will be launched to the ISS in June 2017. ICARUS – managed by the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology – will beam signals down to miniature smart tags that are fitted to a variety of wildlife creatures that are under surveillance, and will receive data back from each tag regarding the location and status of the creature it is attached to.

WUSAT-3 will use a different, but complementary, system to locate such smart tag signals. Effectively, the WUSAT team has formed a knowledge-based collaboration with the Max Planck Institute to evaluate the performance of the two systems.
Once in orbit, WUSAT-3 will stabilise its orientation so that its 4-arm deployable antenna is pointing directly at the Earth’s surface. This antenna will detect a signal from a ground-based smart tag, signal a high-resolution camera to take an image of that area of the Earth’s surface, and then determine the location of the tag within that image. Once the image has been mapped onto corresponding map coordinates, the true location of the tag is generated.

The WUSAT team will develop its own pseudo-tags to be placed in various known locations around the world in order for the accuracy of the WUSAT-3 system to be determined.

Harwin’s involvement

The latest stack is currently still in the design phase, but currently expected to use Gecko connectors (as in previous WUSAT experiments), because of the light weight, size and reliability of the range. Dr William Crofts, Programme Director, explains:

“WUSAT satellites are launched via European Space Agency launch programmes.  Hence our satellites are required to pass highly demanding test procedures which are reviewed by panels of ESA experts.  This will include rigorous vibration testing to meet the extreme vibrational conditions experienced at launch. At each stage, the satellite’s components and sub-systems must also pass tough environmental test procedures, including thermal extremes and safe operation in a vacuum (i.e. material ‘outgassing’ effects, etc).”

“We rely entirely on the very highest quality of connector, as provided by Harwin, to ensure that we are able to pass through these rigorous design reviews and eventually produce a satellite that performs reliably in the harshness of a space environment. Our longstanding relationship with Harwin is a key feature of our success as a satellite engineering team.”

WUSAT-3 proposed structure

Harwin continued sponsorship during 2014-2015 of the WUSat project as they moved into Phase 2 – Deployment of a CubeSat from the ESA/REXUS rocket at 30km. The purpose of this CubeSat was to carry out solar spectroscopy experiments during the descent and transmit the data to base. Gecko connectors were again utilised for their light weight, size and reliability, and a HotShoe connector was used for external communication.

Carrying a WUSAT-designed light spectrometer, it was ejected from the rocket’s nosecone and measured the density of atmospheric elements as it returned through the atmosphere at speeds up to Mach 2. It became the first device ejected from a Rexus launch to successfully achieve its own communication link to our WUSAT-designed helical antenna and ground station.

Read the full Student Experiment Documentation (hosted externally).

Gecko connectors on WUSAT-2 completed CubeSat

Setting up receiving antennas for REXUS launch

In 2013, Harwin sponsored the latest Warwick University project to achieve a student satellite. This year was a prototype test – the satellite was launched to an altitude of approximately 30km via a high-altitude weather balloon. Gecko connectors provided the signal connectors between the multiple PCBs, chosen because of their light weight and reliability.

The aim of the project was to test the CubeSat systems in a harsh environment where the ambient temperature drops to lower than -50°C, prior to future rocket launches. The satellite successfully took images and video at altitude, and was successfully retrieved.

The WUSAT-1 Team before launch

Picture taken by the WUSAT CubeSat during flight

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