Project looks at collective behavior of nanosatellites

April 27, 2021 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Project looks at collective behavior of nanosatellites
Researchers aim to deploy autonomous groups of CubeSats and verify their swarm behavior, performing tasks common for the constellation.

Scientists from the Skoltech Space Center (SSC) have developed nanosatellite interaction algorithms for scientific measurements using a tetrahedral orbital formation of CubeSats that exchange data and apply interpolation algorithms to create local maps of physical measurements in real time. The study presents an example of geomagnetic field measurement, which shows that these data can be used by other satellites or nanosatellites for attitude control and, therefore, provided on a data-as-a-service basis.

SSC is the research lead within the Nanosatellites Swarm project ("Roy MKA") performed by a consortium of several Russian universities and included in the ISS experimental program led by RSC Energia. "Roy MKA" aims to deploy autonomous groups of CubeSats and verify their swarm behavior.

For one of the "Roy MKA" experiments, SSC researchers suggested a tetrahedral formation, which provides an ability to measure the geomagnetic field at any point on orbit. The system is fully autonomous, which means that satellites can process and update measurement data on board and predict magnetic field values by interpolation.

"We use the Kriging interpolation which helps to select the magnetic field values in accordance with its characteristics (autocorrelation). Since the magnetic field is three-dimensional, we have to use a tetrahedron, the simplest three-dimensional simplex with three points on a plane. Thus, we have chosen a 4-satellite formation as the smallest possible configuration for the task. Our project may be the first to create such a configuration of nanosatellites," lead author and Skoltech PhD student Anton Afanasev explains.

Picture: 
Scientists from the Skoltech Space Center (SSC) have developed nanosatellite interaction algorithms for scientific measurements using a tetrahedral orbital formation of CubeSats. Image courtesy of Skoltech.

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