A Reference Design for the Radionavigation of Femtosatellites

R. Benjamin Harris, Namrata Kamte, Tracie Perez, Joshua Berry and Ziad Bakhaya

Abstract: Picosatellites like the CubeSat have gained popularity because they could provide a low cost entry point into space even for small research groups. Although several picosatellite missions have been successful in the recent years, they have faced issues regarding miniaturization of payload and scaling of some space craft sub-systems like propulsion. The next logical step in miniature satellite research was to go even smaller. The femtosatellite is an artificial earth satellite that weights no more than 100 grams. Due to size limitations, the femtosatellite signal is a very low power signal in the microwave range, smililar to the GPS signal. Thus, clusters of femtosatellites can be used for many of the GPS applications along with other potential femtosatellite missions. The successful launch of miniature satellites like the PocketQube and the PhoneSat have paved the way for research on femtosatellite architectures and capabilities. The latest femtosatellite mission was in April 2014 when 104 femtosatellites developed by Cornell University were launched aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-3Dragon. The purpose of this paper is to develop a reference platform for femtosatellite research that addresses three key mission sub–systems namely, Navigation/Control, Payload and Communication. We develop a femtosatellite prototype using a microcontroller and RF transmitter. Our pay-load is the femtosatellite signal encoded with a PRN code using On–Off Keying. Using autocorrelation, we demonstrate the ability to successfully receive the femtosatellite prototype’s signal with a sensitivity approaching that of GPS satellites. Further, we perform forward error correction to validate the integrity of the received data using the Low Density Parity Check encoding scheme. Finally,we implement an antenna array system that can enable the tracking of femtosatellites. Our final goal is to evaluate the ability of the three developed sub-systems for the successful radionavigation of femtosatellites.
Published in: Proceedings of the 27th International Technical Meeting of the Satellite Division of The Institute of Navigation (ION GNSS+ 2014)
September 8 - 12, 2014
Tampa Convention Center
Tampa, Florida
Pages: 1720 - 1737
Cite this article: Harris, R. Benjamin, Kamte, Namrata, Perez, Tracie, Berry, Joshua, Bakhaya, Ziad, "A Reference Design for the Radionavigation of Femtosatellites," Proceedings of the 27th International Technical Meeting of the Satellite Division of The Institute of Navigation (ION GNSS+ 2014), Tampa, Florida, September 2014, pp. 1720-1737.
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