Design and Testing of a Helix Antenna Deployment System for a 1U CubeSat
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Rights accessOpen Access
CubeSats have revolutionized Earth Observation and space science, although their small size severely restricts satellite performance and payload. Antenna deployment from a stowed configuration in these small-satellites remains a great challenge. This paper presents the design, optimization, and testing of an L-band helix antenna deployment system for the 3 Cat-4, a 1U CubeSat developed at the NanoSat Lab (UPC). The 506-mm-long antenna is packed into a 26.8 mm gap together with a tip mass that provides a gravity gradient for nadir-pointing. The 3 Cat-4 Nadir Antenna Deployment Subsystem (NADS) melts dyneema strings to release the antenna in successive steps. PTFE coated fiberglass ensures the helix’s nominal diameter and pitch while a security locking mechanism serves as a redundant system for holding it in place before deploying. Our novel methodology optimizes the number and length of the NADS deployment steps. A slow-motion camera and image recognition software track the velocity and acceleration of the antenna sections by means of tracking dots. Kinematic analysis of the antenna resulted in a final design of four length steps: 90, 300, 420 and 506 mm. Our methodology for calculating these values can be widely applied for measuring many deployment system’s kinematic properties. The NADS performance is tested by characterizing antenna rigidity, analyzing helix behavior after one year in stowed configuration, and by testing the deployment mechanism in a thermal vacuum chamber at -35°C, the most critical temperature stress scenario. All test results are satisfactory. The final design of the NADS deployment mechanism is light, stable, reliable, affordable, highly scalable, and can be used in many antenna configurations and geometries. The 3 Cat-4 mission was selected by the ESA Academy to be launched in Q4 2021.
CitationSureda, M. [et al.]. Design and Testing of a Helix Antenna Deployment System for a 1U CubeSat. "IEEE access", Maig 2021, vol. 9, p. 66103-66114.
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