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Proceedings Paper

CHIPSat spacecraft design: significant science on a low budget
Author(s): Jeffrey Janicik; Jonathan Wolff
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Paper Abstract

The Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer satellite (CHIPSat) was launched on January 12, 2003 and is successfully accomplishing its mission. CHIPS is NASA’s first-ever University-Class Explorer (UNEX) project, and is performed through a grant to the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL). As a small start-up aerospace company, SpaceDev was awarded responsibility for a low-cost spacecraft and mission design, build, integration and test, and mission operations. The company leveraged past small satellite mission experiences to help design a robust small spacecraft system architecture. In addition, they utilized common industry hardware and software standards to facilitate design implementation, integration, and test of the bus, including the use of TCP/IP protocols and the Internet for end-to-end satellite communications. The approach called for a single-string design except in critical areas, the use of COTS parts to incorporate the latest proven technologies in commercial electronics, and the establishment of a working system as quickly as possible in order to maximize test hours prior to launch. Furthermore, automated ground systems were combined with table-configured onboard software to allow for "hands-off" mission operations. During nominal operations, the CHIPSat spacecraft uses a 3-axis stabilized zero-momentum bias "Nominal" mode. The secondary mode is a "Safehold" mode where fixed "keep-alive" arrays maintain enough power to operate the essential spacecraft bus in any attitude and spin condition, and no a-priori attitude knowledge is required to recover. Due to the omnidirectional antenna design, communications are robust in “Safehold” mode, including the transmission of basic housekeeping data at a duty cycle that is adjusted based on available solar power. This design enables the entire mission to be spent in "Observation Mode" with timed pointing files mapping the sky as desired unless an anomalous event upsets the health of the bus such that the spacecraft system toggles back to "Safehold". In all conditions, spacecraft operations do not require any time-critical operator involvement. This paper will examine the results of the first six months of CHIPSat on-orbit operations and measure them against the expectations of the aforementioned design architecture. The end result will be a "lessons learned" account of a 3-axis sun-pointing small spacecraft design architecture that will be useful for future science missions.

Paper Details

Date Published: 8 December 2003
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 5164, UV/EUV and Visible Space Instrumentation for Astronomy II, (8 December 2003); doi: 10.1117/12.512521
Show Author Affiliations
Jeffrey Janicik, SpaceDev, Inc. (United States)
Jonathan Wolff, SpaceDev, Inc. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 5164:
UV/EUV and Visible Space Instrumentation for Astronomy II
Oswald H. W. Siegmund, Editor(s)

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