Aurora at SatRevolution Headquarters
Last week, we had the good fortune of receiving special guests from Aurora Propulsion Technologies. A Finish company dedicated to creating scalable solutions and services for small spacecraft maneuvering and lifetime management. Their sole purpose was to integrate the AuroraSat-1 payloads with the satellite platform at our SatRevolution facilities. During their limited time at our headquarters, we got to have a one on one with Perttu Yli-Opas, Founder and CTO of Aurora Propulsion Technologies. He explained to us why Aurora’s Plasma Brakes are one of a kind in the market. Also, he told us how he, his team, and SatRevolution achieve to successfully integrate their Attitude Control System (ACS) and Plasma Brake into our platform.
What makes your ACS different from the competition?
Aurora’s attitude control system has 6 thrusters and one of the world’s smallest thrust systems. It includes a Plasma Brake Module (PBM) that can deorbit the satellite once the mission is completed from anything up to 1000 km altitude orbits. PBM has significantly lower power consumption, it is lightweight and best of all it is fully Cubesat compatible. PBM works on any inclination orbit and it can be effective on satellites of up to 24kg of mass. Hence, why they work so well with SatRevolution’s platforms.
What are you doing with AuroraSat-1?
Our aim is to prove that the deployment of our systems works with AuroraSat-1. We need to know the timing of deorbit maneuver is correct because for now it is only a theoretical module and it needs to be proven in reality. We currently have two PBM modules on the platform, each of them having a slightly different deployment sequence. One of the PBM modules can be launched in the passive mode, meaning the satellite is not spinning. The other PBM module will be in an active mode, meaning the satellite is spinning. Both techniques, need to prove that they are able to perform. We have successfully tested it on Earth with positive outcomes.
Pihla, Micromechanics of Aurora Propulsion Technologies working on AuroraSat-1
What are the emergency systems of PBM?
The PBM modules have their own independent power system which can function without the satellite. PBM has a passive system that is completely autonomous. There might be a situation where the propulsion system or the communication system might not respond, however, the PBM automatically deploys. It is one of the few systems in the market that can deorbit a malfunctioning satellite.
When and what happens to AuroraSat-1 after its launch into orbit?
AuroraSat-1 has plans to launch into orbit in December 2020. The first few months will consist of testing of the ACS to prove that test measurements are done correctly. We can get the thrust levels of the thrusters more accurately in space so there are no additional forces acting on the satellite. Basically, we do a burn to measure the speed right after that burn. This act demonstrates how much it starts to spin up and achieve accurate measurements on the thrust level on each thruster. We also need to observe the difference between the thrusters, in case they appear too obvious. After that, we will be doing a maneuver using ACS to point the satellite into the direction of the Sun. We need to measure how much propellant we need to maintain in that position and point to the target on Earth that is rotating.
After 6 months or so that all tests have been completed, we activate the PBM. The deorbit time will be from 1.5 to 2 years.
What is the future for SatRevolution with the integration of Aurora’s services?
ACS system enables much more complex missions for small satellites. Currently, Magnetorquers (satellite system for attitude control and most popularly used for satellites) are much slower to react and have limitations on some orbits. For example, they work well on polar orbits but take longer time to react on other orbits. On higher orbits, you need to have propulsion and that is why we are enabling more ambitious projects with SatRevolution and other potential users of technology.
We expect to provide a system that is small and easy to integrate into Cubesats at lower costs. Currently, there are plenty of missions of Cubesats and smallsats going into orbit around the moon. Aurora and SatRevolution can form a part of those missions.
There is plenty of junk space that needs to be taken into consideration. PBM can help solve this emerging problem of Newspace industry.
For more information about AuroraSat-1, you can visit our website at https://satrevolution.com/missions/aurorasat-1/