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Development of a robotic system for CubeSat Attitude Determination and Control System ground tests

Abstract : After the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite in 1957, the evolution of various technologies has fostered the miniaturization of satellites. In 1999, the development of standardized modular satellites with masses limited to a few kilograms, called CubeSats, was initiated by a joint effort of California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University. Since then, CubeSats became a widespread and significant trend, due to a number of available off-the-shelf low cost components.In last years, the number of launched CubeSats constantly grows, but less than half of all CubeSat missions achieved their goals (either partly or completely). The analysis of these failures shows that the most evident cause is a lack of proper component-level and system-level CubeSat testing. An especially challenging task is Hardware-In-the-Loop (HIL) tests of the Attitude Determination and Control System (ADCS). A system devoted to these tests shall offer reliable simulations of the space environment and allow realistic CubeSat motions. The most relevant approach to provide a satellite with such test conditions consists in using air bearing platforms. However, the possible satellite motions are strictly constrained because of geometrical limitations, which are inherent in the air bearing platforms. Despite 15 years of CubeSat history, the list of the air bearing platforms suitable for CubeSat ADCS test is very limited.This thesis is devoted to the design and development of an air bearing testbed for CubeSat ADCS HIL testing. The main novelty of the proposed testbed design consists in using four air bearings instead of one and in utilizing a robotic arm, which allows potentially unconstrained CubeSat motions. Besides the testbed design principle, this thesis deals with the related issues of the determination of the CubeSat orientation by means of contactless measurements, and of the behavior of the air bearings, as well as with the need of a mass balancing method.In order to verify the feasibility of the proposed design, a prototype of the testbed is developed and tested. Several modifications aimed at simplifying the structure and at shortening the fabrication timeline have been made. For this reason, the Adept Viper s650 robot is involved in place of a custom-designed 4DoF robotic arm. A control strategy is proposed in order to provide the robot with a proper motion to follow the CubeSat orientation. Finally, the obtained results are presented and the overall assessment of the proposed testbed is put into perspective.
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Irina Gavrilovich. Development of a robotic system for CubeSat Attitude Determination and Control System ground tests. Automatic. Université Montpellier, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016MONTT329⟩. ⟨tel-01816985⟩

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