Developing Embedded Control of CubeSat-Based Instrumentation

Project Date: Summer 2019
Advisors: Scott Sewell, Andrew Carlile, Nicole Ela

Description of Project: This project was completed during my LASP Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Solar and Space Physics, in which I completed a 10-week instrumentation engineering internship at the High Altitude Observatory of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. During this time, I received training on solar physics, space policy, CubeSat solar panel fabrication, and career development skills.

Abstract: A satellite on-board computer (OBC) is an embedded controller that communicates with other satellite components to carry out necessary tasks. For instance, an OBC typically coordinates environmental data acquisition and storage, attitude determination and control, thermal control, and communications with the ground station. The Distributed Irradiance Monitoring System (DIMS) is an instrument to measure total solar irradiance (TSI) from a high-altitude balloon flight, as a proof-of-concept for a future satellite mission. Cube-shaped nanosatellites, called CubeSats, provide a viable solution for low-cost, continuous TSI monitoring because they are smaller and more affordable than traditional satellites. This project implements basic control tasks using the DIMS CubeSat on-board computer. These tasks include data acquisition from accelerometer and magnetometer sensors, file read/write commands for data storage, OBC configuration from the command terminal, and preparation to communicate with external sensors via SPI or I2C communication protocols. These tasks form the groundwork for future development of embedded control tasks for CubeSat missions at the High Altitude Observatory.

Technologies Used: C programming, embedded controllers, Linux command line, circuit design and testing, multimeter, soldering, solar panels, spectrophotometer, SPI and I2C communication protocols

Poster: Presented August 2019 at Boulder Solar Alliance REU Symposium, and November 2019 at SpaceVision Conference, Arizona State University

Presentation: Delivered to researchers and students in August 2019 at Boulder Solar Alliance REU Symposium

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