A CubeSat is a payload package having dimensions 10cm x 10cm x 10cm and a mass that cannot exceed 1.33 kg. Prior development of launch technology for this payload format, in particular the Cal Poly P-POD that can hold up to three CubeSats while taking up very little space, has resulted in a significant cost advantage over other types of satellite deployment. Although a number of CubeSats have previously been developed and launched into Earth orbit, none have accomplished missions involving interplanetary navigation. Indeed, because of the strict space and weight restrictions of this payload format, missions requiring on-board propulsion systems and navigation components have previously been considered impractical. However, new calculations indicate that this is no longer the case. Vermont Space Grant Consortium’s CubeSat Lunar Lander Project will use high-energy monopropellant and/or long duration ion thrusters, an enhanced version of NASA’s GPS Enhanced Onboard Navigation System (GEONS) rewritten in Ada/SPARK for enhanced reliability, robotic camera modules as navigation components, and a non-standard low energy transfer strategy through a Lissajous orbit at the Earth-Moon L1 Lagrange point to achieve Lunar orbit insertion and a safe decent to the Lunar surface from an Earth geosynchronous orbit for a three-unit CubeSat payload. An independent feasibility review indicates that the probability for success in this mission is high (70-90%). In addition to considering engineering issues associated with design of the actual payload and mission, the design of a project structure to effectively integrate groups of faculty and students at multiple Vermont academic institutions into a synergistic interdisciplinary project team will be described.
|Keywords:||CubeSat Format, Lunar Lander, Interplanetary Navigation, Autonomous Mission, Monopropellant Engine, Ion Engine, Static-mobile Wireless Networks, Low Energy Lunar Transfer Trajectories|
Professor of Mathematics, Statistics, and Biomedical Engineering, Emeritus, and Director, Vermont Space Grant Consortium, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA
Vermont Technical College, Randolph, Vermont, USA
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