Aalto-1 is the first Finnish nanosatellite project
In order to promote technological sciences and engineering careers among the young generation, Aalto University Department of Radio Science and Engineering has initiated a student satellite project. When launched, Aalto-1 will be the first Finnish satellite. The satellite project is a motivating and demanding goal for students and a highly visible project to promote technological sciences and Aalto University. This effort will join the forces of the university, from electronics to financial management, in a truly multidisciplinary manner.
The Aalto-1 project started in the beginning of 2010, when a group of students made a feasibility study of the first Finnish satellite in the framework of the Space Technology special assignment course. Since then the project has created significant excitement among students and teachers alike. New teaching methods have been applied and a significant interdisciplinary co-operation network inside Aalto University has been created. This autumn, the student satellite team grew by 10 newcomers and has now members from five different departments of Aalto University, including arts and design. Additionally, a consortium of Finnish universities and space industry has been formed to support the satellite project and international relations with several foreign universities have been created.
The first Finnish satellite project has already received media attention. The project has been cited in several television shows, including YLE science magazine ¿Prisma Studio¿, where the project was explored in detail.
The satellite project is coordinated by Department of Radio Science and Engineering and supported by Space Technology teaching. In the project participate also Aalto University Department of Automation and Systems Technology, Department of Communications and Networking, Department of Applied Mechanics and addittionally Department of Physics of University of Helsinki (HY), Department of Physics and Astronomy of University of Turku (UTU), VTT, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Aboa Space Research Oy, Oxford Instruments Analytical Oy and other Finnish companies. The consortium will expand in the future.
The feasibility study and the preliminary design of the satellite have been made by Aalto University students during the spring semester 2010. The main requirement for the satellite is a realistic implementation of an innovative Finnish space instrument. The goal was achieved. Several excellent instruments were found and most of them are included in the proposed satellite. Currently the team works towards Preliminary Design Review in spring.
Conceptual design of Aalto-1
- CubeSat based 3U design
- Main payload: Imaging spectrometer (VTT)
- Weight: 3 kg
- Orbit: Sun-synchronous noon LEO
- Attitude: 3 axis stabilized
- Communication: VHF-UHF housekeeping S-band data transfer
- Solar powered, max power 8 W
- Secondary payloads:
- Radiation Monitor (UTU,HY)
- Electrostatic Plasma Brake (FMI)
Although the satellite is build according to student satellite concept, the scientific mission of the satellite is significant and contributes to space and space technology research in many areas.
Fabry-Perot imaging spectrometer
VTT has developed a new concept based on the MEMS and Piezo actuated Fabry-Perot Interferometer to enable recording of 2D spatial images at the selected wavelength bands simultaneously and to reduce the size of the hyperspectral spectrometer to be compatible with light-weight UAV and small satellite platforms. In the spectrometer the multiple orders of the Fabry-Perot Interferometer are used at the same time matched to the sensitivities of the image sensor channels. For example in a Bayer pattern RGB sensor or in a three CCD video camera based on a wavelength separation prism there are different types of pixels for three wavelength channels. The operational wavelength range of the built prototypes can be tuned in the range 400 – 1100 nm and spectral resolution is in the range 5 – 10 nm @ FWHM. The hyperspectral imager records simultaneously a 2D image of the scene at three narrow wavelength bands determined by the selected three orders of the Fabry-Perot Interferometer which depend on the air gap between the mirrors of the Fabry-Perot Cavity. The air gap value is determined using a capacitive measurement and changed under closed loop control with three Piezo of MEMS actuators. The effective aperture the Fabry-Perot interferometer is 7 mm in diameter and the air gap can be controlled in the range 0.8 – 3.5 ¿m enabling the use of the wide range of interferometer orders.
Electrostatic plasma brake
The electric solar wind sail is a space propulsion method, invented in Finland. The electrostatic plasma brake is a variant of the concept which consists of a single gravity-stabilized tether intended to deorbiting a satellite, to avoid leaving it in orbit as space debris after the mission. The Electric Sail Experiment onboard Aalto-1 is intended (1) to demonstrate the deployment of a conducting thin multiline tether, (2) to measure the electrostatic force exerted on the tether by the ram flow of the ionospheric plasma in different positive and negative tether voltages and finally, if all goes well, (3) to bring down the satellite and so to demonstrate the usefulness of the plasma brake as a satellite deorbiting device.
To measure the expected micronewton scale electrostatic force, the voltage is turned on always in the same phase of the tether's rotation (e.g. always when the tether is moving towards the ram flow). After several spins, the effect accumulates enough to cause a detectable change in the tether's and satellite's spin rate, from which the force can be calculated. Over longer timescale, the effect of the force can be deduced from a lowering of the satellite orbit.
A first version of the electric sail experiment will fly on ESTCube satellite in 2012. The purpose of ESTCube is to measure the force, but not yet to demonstrate the deorbiting of the satellite. The Aalto-1 experiment is intended to have a longer tether so that a more significant electrostatic drag force can be produced which is enough for deorbiting.
Compact radiation monitor (University of Turku and University of Helsinki)
A novel readout concept of the radiation monitor instrument allows a light-weight, low-power detector design with large enough dynamic range to be useful in various radiation environments from low-Earth orbits to geosynchronous orbit. The main goal of the project is to demonstrate that the proposed concept, minimizing the amount of power-consuming and slow analog amplifier electronics, is suitable for space applications.
A space radiation monitor needs to measure the fluxes of ionizing corpuscular radiation present in the near-Earth space inside radiation belts and during solar particle events. The monitor, at minimum, should be able to record the spectrum of linear energy transfer (LET) of the particles hitting the detector. The radiation flux is highly variable in space and time, so the dynamic range of the instrument (in terms of its capability to measure both high and low fluxes) needs to be considerable.
At present, a typical energetic charged particle detector is a stack of semiconductor detectors, which records the ionization energy loss of the incident particles in the detector elements. The signal readout electronics typically consists of a pre-amplifier, a shaping amplifier, a peak-hold detector, an AD converter to produce a digitized signal of each particle incident on the detector, and a comparator circuit to determine when the detector is hit by a particle and to provide the timing of the amplifier chain.
We propose to construct a simple radiation monitor consisting of a stack of silicon detectors and a scintillator coupled to a photodiode, that are read out using a novel concept.