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Claudio Passerone, Maurizio Tranchero, Stefano Speretta, Leonardo Reyneri, Claudio Sansoè, Dante Del Corso Politecnico di Torino, Dipartimento di Elettronica Corso Duca degli Abruzzi 24, 10129 Torino, Italy email@example.com Abstract—Many universities are now involved in projects related to design, assembly, and operation of small satellites. These projects, with participation of researchers and students, and support of external companies, do not aim to compete with commercial satellites; the main goal is to increase the experience level which contributes to make space applications affordable also to small organizations. For students, participation in the complete process of satellite design, assembly, and testing, offers a unique experience within an interdisciplinary complex project. External companies are involved in creating a community of researchers focused on space applications, thus creating new markets and opportunities. The paper describes the architecture and design solutions of a small satellite developed at Politecnico di Torino in the above mentioned context. The main design goal was to combine the usually conflicting cost and reliability constraints; cost has been limited by using properly selected COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) devices. Reliability has been achieved through redundancy and design diversity. Focus of the paper is on overall satellite design and architecture, with details of solutions to enhance reliability down to the hardware level. The experience led to the development of a new course (Master level) and to several new projects currently under way.1 2 TABLE OF CONTENTS 1) INTRODUCTION ............................................................... 1 2) DESIGN CONSTRAINTS .................................................... 2 3) DESIGN SOLUTIONS......................................................... 4 a) Single Event Latch-up (SEL) ...................................... 4 b) Single Event Upset (SEU)........................................... 5 c) Cumulative effect of radiation ..................................... 6 d) Shielding...................................................................... 7 e) Power consumption and dissipation ............................ 7 f) Interconnection solutions ............................................. 7 4) ARCHITECTURE AND FUNCTIONAL UNITS ..................... 8 a) Satellite architecture .................................................... 8 b) Power Supply .............................................................. 9 c) PowerSwitch................................................................ 9 d) On Board Processors A and B..................................... 9 e) Image processing and storage...................................... 9 f) RF transceivers............................................................. 9 g) Attitude determination and control............................ 10 h) Ground Segment........................................................ 10 5) CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE WORK............................... 10 1
REFERENCES...................................................................... 11 BIOGRAPHY ....................................................................... 12
Today the industrial and academic interest in space and space-related activities is rapidly growing. A cost-effective access to space would open a wide range of new opportunities and markets, especially for SMEs (smallmedium enterprises) and Universities, which otherwise cannot access space due to high cost. This makes possible testing in the field (that is, in space) theories and ideas which would otherwise be unaffordable. Unfortunately, the cost-effective access to space, which is also envisaged by ESA, is a long way ahead. There is still a lack of devices, circuits, systems suited to develop satellites, ground stations and related services at costs compatible with the budgets of academic institutions and SMEs. The Cubesat project  is a step to fill this gap, but the actual satellite size makes ineffective to use such architecture for commercial applications. This is the major reason for our activity described in this paper, which is aimed at: (1) proving the feasibility of low-cost satellites using COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) devices; this was a new trend in the space industry when we started the project (first quarter of 2004), which is not yet fully accepted due to the belief that COTS devices are not reliable enough for the application; (2) developing a flight model of a flexible and reliable nano-satellite with less than 25,000 €; launching the satellite with less than another 50,000 €; (3) training students in the field of avionics space systems; the project has been developed by a team containing at least 50% undergraduate students carrying out their graduation work. The educational nature of our activity has therefore been one of the leading objectives and led also to the development of specific new courses; (4) developing expertise in the field of low-cost avionic systems, both internally (university staff) and externally (graduated students will bring their expertise in their future work activity);
1-4244-1488-1/08/$25.00 ©2008 IEEE. IEEEAC paper #1164, Version 2, Updated January 15, 2008
Other specific characteristics of a space application. 13 cm in side and 2. The satellite was launched on July 26th 2006. and state upsets in memories and/or registers of digital circuits. watchdog timers and Figure 1: PiCPoT engineering model The satellite has been completely designed using COTS devices. only a limited amount of radiation is present. The total effort spent on the project can be estimated as about 12 man-years (staff + student) for design. The design activity carried out at Dept.(5) gathering expertise and resources which were available within the university and a few SMEs around a common high-tech project.D. These include the need to autonomously produce power. Therefore. although not directly related to failures of the system. This is particularly true when using COTS components and technology. single-event effects (SEE) such as latch-up occurring in CMOS devices. have been built. three cameras with different focal lengths. five processors in full redundancy. shown in Figure 1. voltages and currents) to ground. students. the length of the mission. alpha and beta particles) or ionizing electromagnetic rays from ultraviolet to X-rays that leads to a Total Ionizing Dose (TID) of approximately 1 krad/year (data calculated using SPENVIS  with a 3 mm Al shielding). called PiCPoT (Piccolo Cubo del Politecnico di Torino. An airborne satellite must comply with hard constraints related to the severe space environment and the inability to repair the system in case of failure. respectively. store and transmit 2 . However. pictures of the northern hemisphere (mainly Europe) of Earth at different spatial resolutions. Radiation—The planned orbit (polar. and the short assumed lifetime of the mission (3 months). Details on the specifications can also be found in . which require the adoption of design techniques able to guarantee system operation even in the presence of limited faults at the device level. neutrons.5 kg in mass. albeit close to them. of Electronics. and so on. Techniques that have been used include anti-latchup circuits. The main mission was to send telemetry data (temperatures. between 6 and 12 months each). was aimed at developing and manufacturing a low-cost prototype of a fully operational nano-satellite. the limited visibility of the satellite from a ground station and the distance from it. This radiation might be in the form of high energy particles (protons. Small Cube of Politecnico di Torino). All these units are housed in a cubic aluminum case (developed by Dept. plus about 20 undergraduate students (the former for the whole period. The design activity started three years ago. The paper describes the design methodology. further constrain the possible design solutions. six battery packs. in tight cooperation with the Dept. it gives an overview of its operations.4 GHz. might indeed induce wrong behaviors or even permanent faults. with some details of the major subsystems. for instance. gathered about 10 people among professors and Ph. a flight model and two engineering models of the satellite. Thus the satellite circuits have been protected at the logical and system level against these events. while the latter stayed for shorter periods. with the exception of solar panels. Section 3) describes in more detail design techniques that were used to address the challenging problems imposed by the application. from Baykonour. compared to the belts and the outer space. along with some solutions and ideas. It contains: five solar panels. solutions and techniques that we used to develop the PiCPoT satellite. At this height. and to take. Due to the orbit. total dose effects have not been considered (see. of Aerospace Engineering and other departments of our university. as shown in Figure 1. Unfortunately a failure of the launcher forced its destruction before being released in its planned orbit. manufacturing and testing. of Aerospace Engineering).  for an analysis of the behavior of the Texas Instruments MSP430 microcontroller under radiation). 2) DESIGN CONSTRAINTS This section outlines the constraints and their implications that were considered in the design of PiCPoT. two RX-TX communication modules with antennas operating at 437 MHz and 2. at 600km of altitude) is below the Van Allen belts. the design and the assembly of the device must abide by tighter rules than usual good and safe design criteria applied for any electronic system.
The temperature range inside the satellite is [+20. no BGA devices were allowed in the design. A more critical point is represented by connectors. Politecnico di Torino). with a temperature range of [-20. such as solar panels and antennas. and are mechanically blocked at the four edges. including random and 3 Figure 2: temperature simulation of electronic boards. Mechanical tests for the maximum longitudinal g-load of 10. The board that dissipates more heat is the one responsible of data transmission. which are released to place the satellite into orbit. season=winter and with electronics active. The satellite itself is fixed to the cylindrical launcher adapter with two machined tips on the bottom plate. as it hosts the power amplifiers. However. Vacuum—Vacuum is not a problem for sealed electronic components. leaving only conduction and radiation to the outside. Specifications and requirements with respect to static loads and vibrations were established by the launcher company (Kosmotras and Yuzhnoye Design Office). Δt=10s. and for the internal electronic boards. which is compatible with standard industrial devices. In these conditions. as well as disconnections of electronic devices and disengage of electrical connectors based on mechanical contacts. Other boards were simulated using their nominal characteristics. inclination=98°. temperature may vary considerably. The predicted outside temperature range with active electronics is [+5. but reduces the power dissipation capability due to missing convection. as well as when they are active and dissipating heat . Direct board-to-board connectors are kept in place by the mechanical fixture of boards. and all inner circuits can be well shielded against electro-magnetic interference (EMI) from the outside.0g were conducted at Thales Alenia Space facilities in Torino. 4 orbits. where the different curves represent the temperature of each board. β=90°. the parts subject to this range are external ones. the satellite external structure is completely metallic. This problem is related to the temperature ranges outlined above. More bulky components are secured to PCB. preventing burning or frosting of the satellite. Vibrations—Forces and vibrations applied to the satellite during the launch are very high. we considered the level that we could achieve with in-house equipment sufficient to assess the board reliability. the orbital period is fast enough not to allow too much heat to build up or be released into space. all electronic circuits must comply with this range. Both simulations and ground tests were carried out to satisfy those specifications. Internal interference between different boards or within a single board can also be addressed by properly designing the ground planes and the printed circuit board (PCB) layout of RF and digital units. we . Temperature ranges—While the satellite cycles through its orbit. with glue to keep in place the movable parts. mounting technologies and overall structure is therefore mandatory.e. and might cause physical damages. as shown in Figure 3 (all mechanical and CAD drawings are courtesy of the Department of Aerospace Engineering. successfully tested it in a thermal vacuum chamber.redundancy at various levels. +70] °C. Other connections use flexible PCBs or small flat cables. We considered the cases when the electronic boards are inactive. Thermal simulations allowed us to predict the actual temperature ranges for the outside and the inside faces of the aluminum plates that constitute the external structure of the satellite. since they are more sensitive to vibrations). More details can be found in Sections 3 and 4. While the expected pressure at the orbit altitude is some order of magnitude lower. Fixing tip Fixing tip Launcher Adapter Figure 3: launcher interface PCBs (see Figure 4 for an example) have small size (about 12 × 8 cm2). However. as shown in Figure 1. it alternates from broad daylight to deep Earth shadow. A careful choice of packages (i. therefore vibrations are kept within acceptable limits. +50] °C. +50] °C and a pressure of 10Pa. and at the same time we saved the costs related to renting a more powerful thermal vacuum chamber. altitude=600km. Electro-magnetic interference and signal integrity—Noise at various frequencies may come from both internal and external sources.. taking into account derating because of the absence of convection.
or by using radiation hardened devices. If we take into account the distance (which varies depending on the altitude of the satellite over the horizon) and absorption due to the atmosphere. We applied numerous such techniques in the design of the satellite. and the maximum available energy is 202 kJ. Each supply path should have its own protection circuit. provided that they are not used continuously. Hence. The former includes shielding the sensitive parts and choosing devices that are less prone to errors due to radiation at a comparable price tag. Total charge time is 63. a) Single Event Latch-up (SEL) Latch-up (LU) occurs when a parasitic SCR made by the couple of complementary MOS devices is turned on by high input voltages (this is the usual LU in ICs. shock and acoustic loads tests have been performed by Yuzhnoye in Ukraine. to make it available at a later time.135 W. Peak power consumption of the electronic subsystems can obviously exceed 820mW. the angle between the solar panel and the incoming light ray). and solar panels are used to transform light into electricity. that we use to charge six battery packs. when the satellite passes through the zenith). since one of the goals of PiCPoT is to explore the use of COTS components for space applications. in our case). Examples of such techniques include error correction (i. e. normal operation can be restored. which can bring a high power dissipation and. this power must be accumulated in batteries. the line-of-sight visibility of the satellite from any given point on the Earth lasts about 10 minutes. the total power per square centimeter that is potentially available is 0. must be LUsafe (latch-up can occur.g. rather than waiting for the expiration of a deadline. we decided to keep only some critical parts LU-free by proper device selection. which make a considerable fraction of the total costs of a small satellite. except for normal good design practice in selecting components and sub-systems. At the Earth-to-Sun distance. in memories). Our calculations show that solar panels provide an average of 1. The Sun is the only power source. but for small satellites (below 10kg) the launch costs were almost constant. in turn. for an average power available for all electronic systems of 820mW. the total available power can be computed. which should itself be LU-free. and in particular with the technique used to hold the satellite in place during launch and the way it is released when proper orbit is reached. and that only 3 of them are facing the Sun. by using only bipolar technology for its components. 4 Figure 4: an example of PCB used in PiCPoT Orbit—The predicted polar orbit is at a height of around 600 km (370 miles) and takes roughly 90 minutes to complete one revolution. and watchdog timers to reset misbehaving devices or boards.sinusoidal vibrations.4 hours (roughly 2..e. with varying form factors (i. however. The effect is a high. These last. an electromagnetic signal would on average be attenuated 160 dB. are directly . self-sustaining current flow.68W. related to the size and the weight of the satellite itself. as described in the following. redundancy at several abstraction levels. LU-free circuits (latch-up can not occur) can be designed by avoiding CMOS all-together. The latter.. Size and weight—Launch costs. This technique is analogous to a watchdog timer. and to allow using standard CMOS devices in other circuits. Once the transient event is over. while allowing events to take place. when worst case efficiencies of both the battery charger and the batteries themselves are taken into account.e.5 days). Power—The satellite has to generate its own power to function properly. The shape and size of the external enclosure should comply with requirements imposed by the launch vector (Kosmotras DNEPR LV. we did not take any particular action to reduce weight. device disruption. during the lit part of the orbit and given the efficiency of the transformation process. but makes no harm). In optimal conditions (i. Launch cost depends on satellite weight. Techniques to achieve this goal can be classified as either physical or logical. All tests and simulations passed successfully. mitigates or completely eliminates their effects by acting at the system level. 3) DESIGN SOLUTIONS Most of the efforts for using COTS components in a satellite are aimed to protect the circuits from fatal events. with specific protection circuits.e. Since the satellite spends most of the time in a semi-idle state. The basic idea behind protection is to constantly measure current and to immediately turn the power off as soon as anomalous current consumption is detected. except that it actively monitors the circuit to be preserved. Assuming that 5 out of 6 faces of the satellite are covered with solar panels.. caused for instance by input over-voltages) or by high energy particles which induce a small current (this is the case for a space device).
depending on the kind of protection we wanted to provide. Those parts of the satellite that depend on this kind of memory must be protected in some other way. it can even cause severe damages. To fully extinguish the LU. and includes: a current sense differential amplifier (CSA). since writing speed is very low. SET). it may cause a transient change in voltage levels. we distinguished between three different kind of errors: (6) errors on dynamic data and/or in code segments resident in volatile memory. then it can safely be ignored. They are also non-volatile and cheap. We applied different techniques in various parts of the satellite. This allows saving energy and at the same time maintaining the good tolerance to radiation of flash devices. it will probably lead to incorrect behaviors (soft errors). Static RAM (SRAM): the information is stored into a twostate device (flip-flop). and LU continues for indefinite time.The block diagram of the protection circuit of a single supply path is shown in Figure 5. Although no radiation-hardened components were used. such as when a configuration bit of a programmable logic device turns an input into an output. The selection was driven by the need to keep the design simple and power consumption and total budget low. and in particular we considered: Dynamic RAM (DRAM): it is the most dense memory. each with its own advantages and shortcomings..3 V. the current is limited but not brought to 0. the cell proved to be robust against SEU . however. if the event is latched. and it is used when large amount of memory is required. the mono-stable is triggered and isolates the load from the power sources for about 100 ms. others do not address all of them. for instance) and are 2 to 3 order of magnitude faster. but cannot be used for normal processor operations. since 5 Figure 5: latch-up protection circuit When the current crosses the limit set for anti-latch-up intervention (usually 2× the maximum regular current). (8) errors on program code stored in non-volatile memory. This technology looks promising for space applications but. Some cope with all three kind of errors. For this reason. writing operations on an FeRAM can operate at lower voltages (3. and especially memories that rely on tiny voltages to carry their information. When a high-energy particle hits a circuit. Although the charge pump mechanism to reprogram a cell has been shown to be susceptible to TID effects (which we did not consider due to the short lifetime of the mission). the current-steering switch steers residual current away from the load. In the less dramatic case of a soft event. Ferro-electric RAM (FeRAM): this is a kind of memory (see . While this is usually not considered a problem with analog circuits. Careful selection of the best devices for the application allows us to strongly reduce the probability of single event upsets. including 5 processors. If the final effect results only in a glitch (Single Event Transient. The main problem in the design of LU protection is to balance the LU current threshold with the current limit of the power supply. A ferroelectric material (usually an alloy of zirconium or titanium) can be polarized by applying an external electric field. it might adversely affect digital circuits which typically involve high speed signals with steep edges. After this process a residual polarization persists and the hysteresis phenomenon related to the polarization allows to store information. . useful only for dynamic data and which do not protect against multiple bits upsets. (7) errors on data stored in non-volatile memory. but have the advantage of consuming less power. it is rather sensitive to radiations. a mono-stable circuit with threshold input. Namely. ) based on ferro-electric phenomenon. Therefore we did not use radiation-hardened devices (too expensive and against the whole philosophy of the project to use COTS components wherever possible). flash devices are a good candidate for important data and code. it has been shown that these are more sensitive to radiation than dynamic RAMs . Being based on charge held on a parasitic capacitor. The outcome of such events may be wrong data. the susceptibility of COTS components to radiation can be very different. different kind of memories and programmable logic devices. In extreme cases. for instance) or even a crash (i. The available solutions to address the problem are very diverse. isolating and current-steering switches (IS and CS). Flash: even more energy than conventional static RAM is needed to change the state of a bit.e. b) Single Event Upset (SEU) PiCPoT contains several digital circuits. if the upset results in a non-existent op-code for a processor). Processor registers also use the very same technology. We examined several kind of memories in search for the best ones. wrong behavior (if the event affects some data dependent control. nor memories with error corrections code (ECC). if the regulator current limit is activated before the LU. Compared to flash memories. or directly upsets a bit (or multiple bits) in a memory or a register.
Long data streams (tens or even hundreds of kbytes). if one chain fails for any reason. the information downloaded to ground will simply be incorrect. Simply. which is highly modular and can survive several failures. did not show up identical in replicas). whatever command was being executed. Dynamic and static memories were used for execution. ). in fact we do provide protection against possible permanent failures. if it is too large to be transmitted in 60 s at the available bit rates. Communication between boards may also be affected by SEU. architectures (two different processors and instruction set. c) Cumulative effect of radiation Although in Section 2) we stated that total dose effects have not been considered. are more subject to problems than very short (a few bytes) commands. such as when 6 transmitting a picture from one board to another for successive download to ground. while Flash and FeRAM were used for permanent data and program storage. Data. Another technique to approach the problem of SEU is to use redundancy. other techniques must be used to ensure proper behavior. Examples of replication with differentiation are the power supply. but the chosen periodicity is a hard deadline and cannot be extended by the controlled processor boards. More details about the implementation can be found in Section . This method potentially allows active identification of an SEU even in RAMs during the execution of a program. For this reason. a SEU will potentially result in wrong data or a crash. In general. its use on PiCPoT was limited to a single board. the notable exception is the download of a picture to ground. the space available inside the satellite did not allow us to replicate identical boards (except for the system level duplications which are discussed in the remainder of this paper). The latter provides two communication channels using separate antennas. at frequency of 437 MHz and 2. However. in the satellite electronic boards. This is mainly achieved through three orthogonal techniques: (9) replication of functional chains. and to promptly act to correct it. such as pictures or telemetry. different implementation solutions are used in the various chains. long communications are protected by a protocol that involves CRC computation and retransmission. that is differentiation of the replicated units with respect to the algorithms. where all units work at the same time and on the same data. are the most sensitive devices to SEU. different memory hierarchies) and algorithms (chains were developed independently by different groups. We considered using different technologies (CMOS versus Bipolar.few information about the behavior of FeRAM in space is available in the literature (. A permanently damaged chain will cease to be selected. Among the various alternatives. where the majority wins and allows correction of a fault. (11) graceful performance degradation. the timing unit and the communication unit. The replicated unit can be a complete board (processor. which might need to be split into multiple commands acting on different portions of the image. holding identical information). architecture and technology. one or more backups exist to take over. In some cases. Unlike replication used to address single event effects. Any unit can be used. data on radiation effects on memories was used to compare similar devices and select the best one. The periodicity that was selected is 60 s: it allows all but the longest command to be executed with a good margin. the X-modem protocol has been selected for its simple implementation and because it is often a standard feature of terminal emulation programs on PCs. topology. the on-board computers. memories and peripherals). both static and dynamic. In order to prevent similar problems from affecting all the replicas. Obviously. We used a mix of all the above memories because strengths and weaknesses were often complementary. Our solution is to periodically turn off processor boards and start a complete boot procedure. Nonetheless. or even devices within a board. This technique is similar to a watchdog. Being highly experimental. which allowed easy testing of the boards before they were connected and assembled together. for instance. This however does not preclude the system to work correctly at the successive re-boot. this technique does not provide the ability to correct a failure. (10) diversity. FeRAM was only used to hold non-vital data. The former provides multiple alternative units to perform the same functionality. multiple units can be used to reach a particular goal. Since RAMs. and they are not replicated. on the other hand. in some of the processor boards the program stored in flash memory is maintained in multiple copies and a procedure to search for SEUs can be explicitly activated. such as the telemetry stream acquired from sensors. are not protected and if an SEU occurs. including registers inside the processors. although functionality and/or performance might be affected. Flash versus FeRAM. without influencing the others. as opposed to the single event effects described in previous sections. at least three replicated units are necessary to implement a voting mechanism. When available. although with performance degradation (less available power). but failure of any of them does not preclude the overall system to work.4 GHz respectively. Given that the program is stored in flash memory (possibly with some duplication) and that RAMs go through a power cycle and reset. as well as by other noise sources. but only one should be selected. NiCd versus LiPo). a physical device on a board (three instances of the same component) or an abstract unit within a device (three memory segments in the same chip. so that bugs in the software. the soft error will be completely eliminated.
batteries and aluminum panels to reduce its influence. but reduces its effects. d) Shielding In a satellite two kind of problems have to be mitigated: radio-frequency interferences and high-energy particles. such as the one described in previous sections. or with reduced performance if allowed by the application. When using connectors for these links. For radiation-related phenomena. so we used internal placement of boards. Typical power consumption of on-board systems (see Section 4 for an outline of the architecture) is summarized in Table 1. showing good performances also in corner cases. as they have to generate an output power of about 2W each. On the other hand we also protect the wires connecting internal and external parts with special feed-through filters (connection between solar panels and switching converters). We developed special solutions to reduce problems related to RF phenomena. In any case. but rather to demonstrate the feasibility of a low cost satellite. respectively. using screws which are less than λ/4 apart for the highest frequency used on PiCPoT (2. This solution does not remove radiation problems. leaving a margin of about 300mW.4)f). The PCB contains 3 ground-planes that extend their own area to all the space available. in this way heat generated by the PAs is distributed to the entire board.2W Avg. In our case we had to share multiple connections among the boards in order to allow: digital communications (for actuators. Proc A&B Payload TxRx Total Duty Cycle 100% 6% 0. …). Power amplifiers are the most power-hungry elements. because the main objective of the project was not to carry a payload. power connections. the fraction of time each subsystem is expected to be turned on. Boards have been tested in thermovacuum environment. The PCB surface is covered with high-thermal-conductivity coating . since the power level is related to the satellite distance from the Earth. house-keeping. The board is isolated from the others using multiple ground planes and placing the RF components on the face opposite the other modules. The most critical is the 437MHz one whose efficiency is only 25%. Power 20mW 12mW 21mW 443mW 496mW RF transmission is the only part which needs high power for a medium-long period.6% Peak Power 20mW 200mW 3. further mitigate radiation induced problems. Chip body is connected to metal face through a thermal conductive mat . . when low-power commercial components were not readily available. 7 Table 1: Power budget Device Power Mgmt. RF communications links. battery packs and aluminum panels (internal structure).44GHz). e) Power consumption and dissipation Being a battery-based system. care should be taken to avoid detachments caused by strong vibrations during launch. our solution was to keep them either in idle state or completely switched off when not in use. Thermal analysis had shown that our satellite. which are handled using different solutions. there is not enough space to use thick shields to protect from high energy particles.44GHz it raises to 40%. like latch-up and single event upsets. where both peak and average power are indicated in column 3 and 4. and a replicated memory hierarchy. in its orbit can reach at most 80°C. Power Management is always on. The only non replicated unit is the camera control board (payload). Both can be reduced using appropriate shielding techniques. Total average power is around 0. each of them dealing with a different band (437MHz and 2. electrically connected together. the board sports three cameras. only one board deals with RF and it is structured to limit interactions with other subsystems. payload and communication are used only when necessary. Internally. f)Interconnection solutions When the amount of space available is small the problem of interconnecting a complex system like a satellite can be hard. analog signals acquisition (mainly for sensors).5W.4 GHz). The worst case dissipation is therefore about 6W. in percentage. The extra power is dissipated on shunts inserted on the power subsystem to avoid over-voltages on the power bus. On the RF board we have two different devices. PiCPoT was designed for low power consumption.5% 2. while for 2. aluminum panels (external structure). the average power generated by solar panels is about 820mW. The outer structure is based on six aluminum alloy faces. The panel is aluminum black-anodized in order to allow maximum irradiation. PCBs are placed in the inner part surrounded by a “sandwich” made of solar panels. Other techniques. while on-board processors. such as in the case of the high performance image processing subsystem.84W 17. Column 2 shows. Each component has been chosen in commercial low-power domain.
For this goal we use a main stack of indirect narrow-pitch 140 pin connectors. multiple cables for connecting solar panels. This structure also increases robustness of the board pack. Two sets of power cables are necessary: one to link solar panels to the batteries. in order to guarantee a controlled impedance and low losses between RF boards and antennas. and shows the test connector and cable. SMA cables for RF SMA connectors Flat cable test connector SMA RG405 connectors 30 pins flat cables 50 pins flat cables Figure 7: flat and SMA cables and connectors Figure 6: stackable connectors between boards For the remaining signals (especially for power lines. flat cables to connect analog and digital signals to a board that was not stacked with the others. in order to allow verification of the satellite electronics while it is closed inside its enclosure. Figure 8 illustrates the wiring of power cables when all the electronic boards are mounted in the satellite structure. which is decoded and executed. as shown in Figure 6. On this connector were channeled the all the communication signal among tiles and many of the analog signals (used to acquire sensors values). In this way we obtain an efficient vibrationproof connection for digital and analog signals. since no extra cables were needed. and RF connections). and a second 60 pin connector for selected signals. and another to bring power from the batteries to the electronic boards. for achieving redundancy on these critical connections. with the exception of the power cables. the connector is tightly connected to the board. it also includes a test connector which is available on one of the external plates of the satellite. This solution leads to a pseudo-shared bus. Figure 8: power cable wiring in the mounted satellite 4) ARCHITECTURE AND FUNCTIONAL UNITS a) Satellite architecture The complete architecture of PiCPoT is shown in Figure 9.This issue was solved using a series of stackable connectors. ensuring the electrical link. we have to use special media: SMA connectors and coaxial cables for RF. instead. The processor waits for a command from ground. which represent a CAD model of the mounted boards. 8 . power consumption rises quickly. telemetry is sent to ground anyway and the chain power is turned off. The core of PiCPoT satellite is a redundant central power management and timing unit (PowerSwitch) which drives two (A/B) processing chains. Figure 7 shows the organization of the cables. which ensures communication among modules and reduces problems related to vibrations. as well. and power is turned off to extinguish the latch-up. Indeed. If no command is received within 5s. and was very useful in satellite assembly since it led to a simpler integration phase. Every 60s the timing unit selects the most charged battery and turns chain A on. batteries and power supply board. If a latch-up occurs.
We chose a BER of 10-5 and we obtained a maximum transfer rate of 25 kbps for the 437 MHZ channel and 19 kbps for the 2. the transmitting and receiving antenna gains. the receiver characteristics. b) Power Supply The main power sources are 5×2 (2 on each external panels. which implements the same functionalities as chain A. Figure 9: Architecture of PiCPoT satellite Table 2: PiCPoT link budget Link TX Antenna Gain Output Power Attenuation RX Antenna Gain RX Sensitivity Noise Temp. 437 MHz Uplink 24 dBi 47 dBm 154 dB 1. as depicted in Figure 10. and a TI MSP430 (ProcB). using only bipolar IC. a Chipcon CC1010.2V1500mAh Li-Po). The UHF system is equipped with a folded double helical antenna . except for the antenna) triple junction GaAs solar panels. 9 Tracker (MPPT) based on a switching power converter. connected respectively to the A and B chains. Link budget is summarized in Table 2. The two power on cycles are shifted 30s. e) Image processing and storage The main payload is a set of three color cameras. An Analog Devices Blackfin DSP manages the board and implements the compression algorithm and permanent storage of the pictures. The functions performed include: data acquisition. which is divided into 9 sub-images individually sent to ground.656-4 digital stream. even if four of them got damaged. interpreting and executing commands received from ground. and the target Bit Error Rate (BER). The S-band link is based on Chipcon CC2400 transceivers. not sensitive to latch-up. d) On Board Processors A and B We used two different commercial low-power processors: a Chipcon CC1010 (ProcA).4 GHz Uplink 25 dBi 40 dBm 169 dB 4 dBi -118 dBm 400 K 2.5 dBi 30 dBm 154 dB 24 dBi -115 dBm 450 K 2. They have similar tasks but different design solutions to increase system reliability and to prevent a single bug to crash both chains. battery management. while chain B uses a Texas Instrument MSP430.4 GHz Downlink 4 dBi 33 dBm 169 dB 25 dBi -130 dBm 400 K f) RF transceivers The satellite operates on two different frequencies: UHF at 437. with different focal lengths. 4×7. the maximum transfer rate can be computed.5 dBi -103 dBm 450 K 437 MHz Downlink 1.4 GHz one. c) PowerSwitch This board is composed of two (A/B) independent subsystems responsible for: Battery selection . the A chain uses a Microchip PIC microcontroller. The S-Band link data are organized in a similar way but uses a modulation scheme not directly compatible with amateur stations.A similar sequence of actions takes place at time shift of 30s on chain B.480MHz and S-Band at 2440MHz (radio amateur satellite bands). which feed two independent power busses. The satellite uses 6 battery packs (2×7. but with different components and using the other radio link. They are commercial units with a standard PAL video output.2V900mAh Ni-Cd. then the interlaced raw image is converted into a compressed JPEG picture. The five converters allow the system to survive. The UHF link is based on the transceiver included in the ProcA OBC. The UHF downlink is compatible with the amateur PK96 packet radio. The analog video is converted into a standard ITU-R BT. while S-band uses a Planar Inverted-F Antenna (PIFA). the same figure also shows the three on-board cameras. Each of them has a dedicated Maximum Power Point Voltage regulation Power up scheduling Latch-up events count For design diversity. Two separate devices are used for TX and RX. Given the available power at the transmitter on the satellite.
An active reaction wheel driven by a small brushless motor. Both links are equipped with ad hoc developed antennas.We decided to use a standard data rate of 9600 bps on the 437 MHz channel (to be also compliant with ham-radio operators) and 10 kbps on the 2. Moreover. 5) CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE WORK In this paper we presented the architecture and design solutions of a small satellite developed at Politecnico di Torino by a team of students coordinated by Professors of several University Departments. Cost has been limited by using properly selected COTS devices. Anyway. As the satellite rises above the horizon. the S-band system is a combination of commercial devices and parts used in the satellite. We provide two ways of controlling attitude: A passive mechanism based on permanent magnets to align the satellite with the Earth magnetic field. the short predicted life-time (3 months) does not require adjusting the altitude of the satellite. antennas are studied such that the transmission lobe spans a wide area. Also. corresponding to Torino main ground station (Figure 11). The selected data rates take also in account an approximate margin of 50% to increase reliability of the communication. As soon as an acknowledge is received. Figure 11: satellite orientation during its orbit. given the symmetry along the vertical axis of both pictures and radio communications. attitude control is necessary for two reasons: Aiming the antennas to ground for communication. Aiming the cameras toward the earth for taking pictures. The large field of view of even the highest resolution onboard camera allows a low pointing accuracy. which could exploit the favorable orientation of the Earth magnetic field in the geographical area of Europe. the antenna is aimed and a command is sent on the 437MHz link. this last control was not strictly necessary. We therefore looked for low cost and easy technological solutions. in spite of 10 . The developed satellite has been launched together with other University satellites by a DNEPR LV rocket in July 2006. with hysteresis plates as dampers to minimize oscillations. but unfortunately a problem in the first stage of the carrier led to destruction of all satellites.4 GHz channels (one of the available data rates of Chipcon CC2400). Magnets aim antennas and cameras towards ground over 45° parallel N. On the other hand. while reliability has been achieved through redundancy and design diversity. The four Neodymium 35 permanent magnets can only control the satellite attitude around two axes perpendicular to the Earth magnetic field. whose gain is about 24dBi. However. past university satellites with no orbit control showed a long period of activity with no correction at all. The reaction wheel axis is parallel to the magnetic field: by acting on it we can reduce the spin-axis rotation of the satellite. controlled through commands from Earth. as there is no room for an orbit-correction propulsion system. The sequence is repeated on the other RF link. h) Ground Segment A dedicated Ground Station has been developed to monitor and control the satellite using both UHF and S-band radio links. and continues until the satellite becomes invisible. We believe that. payload commands are sent. The paper illustrates how we combined the usually conflicting cost and reliability constraints. Figure 10: antennas and camera mounting g) Attitude determination and control No orbit control is provided in PiCPoT. The UHF uplink-downlink is based on commercial equipment.
Honolulu. Ziegler.  H.  Peters HSP 2741. “CubeSat: A New Generation of Picosatellite. Hosier. Reyneri. Klein. REFERENCES  D. aimed to design a modular configurable platform for nano and microsatellites .  M. M. Sykes.” in Proceedings of the Military and Aerospace Applications of Programmable Devices and Technologies Conference. September 2005. F. A. pp. L. B. “IBM experiments in soft fails in computer electronics. Montrose. G. Nakasuka. Freeman. Logan. A. Orro. Nicewicz.M. B. 40. P. the design has been a great success. Wang. Dante Del Corso. Nguyen. V.  M. Sullivan. no.  T. S. H. Volterra (PI). Scheick. “TID testing of ferroelectric nonvolatile RAM. J. India.pdf . Sussman. D. C.org/richcontent/MemoryContent/nvmt_symp/ nvmts_2002/docs/21/21_scheick_p.” Atti del XVII congresso nazionale AIDAA. Ross. L. C. “Modular Architecture for Satellites. September 1998. J. Claudio Sansoè. June 10-15 2007. Unger. Tranchero.  L. Wahausand. Swift. Yourke.” IBM Journal of Research and Development. Reyneri. 428−431. D. J. A. P. Caldera. M. J. because it demonstrated the ability of carrying on a complex multidisciplinary design inside a University and saw an enthusiastic participation of the students involved. 11 . August 2007.N. A.M. J. January 1996.” 2007 IEEE AP-S International Symposium. “Single Events Effects evaluation of FeRAM memories for space applications.  Stefano Speretta. The most important is the start-up of a more ambitious program called AraMiS. Muhlfeld. S.” http://klabs. W. LaFave. B. Moore. W. M. M. Claudio Passerone. August 2001. J.com 570. The experience gained with PiCPoT led to the development of a new course (Master level) and to several new projects currently under way.N. J. Del Corso. pp. Sansoè. http://www. J. A. C. Miyahira and G. Tolat. R. and C. Borri. T. R. S. Twiggs. Corpino. Digest. C.de  Chomerics THERM-A-GAP™ http://www.” in Proceedings of the 14th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites. L. H.” in Proceedings of 58th International Astronautical Congress. J. Hyderabad. “The PICPOT Satellite Antenna Systems. Messina. Chin. S. UT. J. M. E. S. G. T.” in Proceedings of Radiation Effects Data Workshop. Scott. W. Taber. H. Nguyen. N. Dassano.30293032. L.peters. Curtis. pp. W. Guertin.  J. A. “Evaluation of Radiation Effects in Flash Memories. Passerone.  D. Y. O’Gorman.” 10th Euromicro Conference on Digital Sustem Design. September 2007. Heidt. Enger. vol. H. Leonardo M.Z.Walsh.this problem that did not allow us to verify the satellite’s function is real life. Orefice. “Analisi termica di un nanosatellite universitario. T. Speretta. S. L.chomerics. Russell. 56−61 July 2001. 1. “Architecture of a Small Low-Cost Satellite. T. Masoero. Maurizio Tranchero. Puig-Suari. Viola.Z. 2004. Scheick.
Italy. Since 1987 he is with Politecnico di Torino. He coordinated research and design activities for several national and international projects. Author or co-author of about 150 papers and 8 books and CD-ROMs in the fields BIOGRAPHY Claudio Passerone (M’98) received the M. Maynard. in 1994 and in 1998. Barnhart. Vladimirova. D. of the Editorial Board of IEEE MICRO (till 2005).spenvis. and of the JTC1/SC36 ISO-IEC committee (learning technologies). From 2000 to 2003 Coordinator of the EU 5th framework IST project "3DE: Design. Since 2004 he is deeply involved in the design and implementation of nanosatellites. pages 43 . Edinburgh and Granada. degree in Electrical Engineering from Politecnico di Torino. for Bsc and Master level of the Politecnico and COREP. He is also working on industrial and agricultural applications of neuro-fuzzy classification. From 1984 to 1985 he was with ESA (European Space Agency) working at the ESTEC (European Space research and Technology Centre) premises in Holland. since more than 10 years. neuro-fuzzy networks and their applications to industry and agriculture. SPENVIS. Paul. Claudio Sansoè was born in Torino in 1960. Del Corso carried out research and design activities on analog and digital circuits. characterization and forecasting techniques. Jallad. HW/SW and mixed-signal codesign and cosimulation. associated professor of Electronics at the Faculty of Engineering of Politecnico di Torino.Sc. and reconfigurable computing. and the Ph. G. Baker. His research interests include systemlevel design of embedded systems.” in Proceedings of the 2nd NASA/ESA Conference on Adaptive Hardware and Systems. His main past research interests and achievements are design of integrated high-speed parallel processing architectures and systems dedicated to real-time image processing. Bridges. Prof. In 2002 he received the best paper award at the 9th International Conference on Electronics. 2007.D. Prassinos. http://www. During the years. Dante Del Corso is Full Professor of Electronics at the Politecnico di Torino. J. R. and he holds 6 patents. He obtained the master degree cum laude in Electronics from Politecnico di Torino in 1984. Editor in Chief of IEEE MICRO magazine from 1991 to 1994. aimed at high performance systems. D. “Characterising Wireless Sensor Motes for Space Applications. Currently coordinator of the courses in Electronic Engineering. of Neural Processing Newsletters. high speed interconnections. He has also spent periods of time at the European Space Agency and at the Universities of Pisa. Magness. A. degree in Electrical Engineering and Communication from the same university. Sidibeh. Lappas. His working. He has also been guest editor and referee of international magazines and conferences and program and steering chairman of international conferences. Member of the IEEE-CS Publication Board (till 1998). development and testing of hardware-software codesign methodologies for embedded systems. C. Reyneri. on the development of tools and methods for codesign and cosimulation of HW/SW and mixed-signal systems. August 5-8. Wu. design and VLSI implementation of high-speed decoders for convolutional and turbo codes for space applications. where he is currently Associate Professor. Development. A. and has published over 50 journal and conference papers. R. multiprocessor architectures and buses. X. K. He is currently researching in the fields of VLSI design. Leonardo M. K. has received the M. J. His activities were in the field of radiation testing and characterization of complex electronic devices such as processors and memories. respectively.50. He has also coordinated and participated to the development of a HW/SW codesign environment based on Simulink. He is currently an assistant professor within the Electronic Department of Politecnico di Torino. P. the Space Environment Information System. Dr. parallel computing and real-time signal processing.oma.be/  T. and Delivery Electronic Environment for Educational MultiMedia". Passerone is a co-author of a book on hardware/software co-design of embedded systems. Circuits and Systems. architectures for Artificial Neural Networks based on pulse-stream circuits. He has served on the technical committees of the IEEE Design Automation and Test in Europe Conference and of the IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems. and on the design of systems centered around digital and analog FPGA's. Reyneri has published more than 160 papers 12 . and in the development of methodologies for design of interactive multimedia educational packages.S. design of an FPGAbased node controller for a high capacity WDM optical packet network: he was responsible of operating unit in a PRIN project funded by the Italian Research Ministry. V. with particular interest in real time signal processing and telecom systems. degree cum laude at Politecnico di Torino in 1984 and the PhD in 1992. his research activities involved many fields of Electronics and Computer Science. electronic system simulation and synthesis.
multiprocessor Stefano Speretta received the M. Maurizio Tranchero graduated in Electronics in 2005. rad-hard design techniques and distributed systems. He is now enrolled as Ph. Now he is working in the Electronic Department where he is attending the Ph. He spent a period in ST Microelectronics working on functional NAND Flash testing techniques. in 2006. Italy. Between 2005 and 2006 he worked in ST Microelectronics for several months on “Low-power and Low-emissions Design Techniques”.of analog and digital electronics. His main interests include analog circuits design. high-level design. His main research topics include asynchronous circuits. architectures. student in the Electronic Department of the same university. and avionics. in Electronics and Communications. Maurizio Tranchero is also IEEE member since 2003. degree in Electrical Engineering from Politecnico di Torino. and use of ICT in education.D.S.D. 13 .