Background about the project

1. Introduction

Artificial satellites have become a necessary tool for modern civilization. These satellites are man-made machines and objects that are launched into space to complete a wide range of missions and functions. They are responsible for facilitating international banking transactions, recording overhead footage of enemy countries for military applications, collecting revolutionary close-up footage of planets on the edge of our solar system, and many more applications. This report covers the research, concept development, prototype fabrication, and testing of a deployable antenna system for UVic’s Center for Aerospace Research’s new nano-satellite Skyana.

1.1. Satellite History

The first-ever satellite successfully launched into space was Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. This satellite was a ground-breaking achievement for all space research, demonstrating that objects could be transported from Earth to space and placed into an orbit around Earth. Sputnik 1’s mission only lasted three weeks, but it accomplished the goals set out for the mission.

 

This was shortly followed by the launch of the Soviet Union’s second satellite Sputnik 2, and the first-ever satellite launched by the United States, the Explorer 1. Sputnik 2 was especially notable as it transported and provided valuable information about the effect of space travel on a living organism into space, a dog.

 

Since the launch of these first three satellites, more than twelve-thousand satellites have been launched into orbit by over eighty countries around the world. Some of the most prominent of these satellites are the first space station launched in 1971 by the Soviet Union, the Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990, the International Space Station launched in 1998, and the James Webb Space Telescope launched in 2021 [1].

1.2. CubeSats

CubeSats are a subset of small satellites that are used by schools, clubs, government, and other industries for a wide range of research applications. Their low cost, small size, simple and standard components, and relatively quick development time render them a great tool for organizations that otherwise would not be able to develop spacecraft [2]. Figure 1.1 demonstrates the appearance of CubeSat configurations.

Figure 1.1: CubeSat Single Unit and Max Configuration [1]

1.2.1. CubeSat Sizing

CubeSats are constructed using standard sizing to ensure they are compatible with the launcher used to deploy them once in orbit. This sizing is based on cubes with a volume of 10 x 10 x 10 cm3 referred to as one unit. CubeSats can be expanded to 12 units connected to one-another with an option to also include a TunaCan on top. The TunaCan is explained further in the next section.

1.2.2. TunaCan

The TunaCan for CubeSats is a cylindrical enclosure that can be attached to the top of CubeSats to allow for extra volume without adding another CubeSat unit. CubeSats with the TunaCan attached are stored at the front of the NanoRacks CubeSat launchers which prevents the TunaCan from interfering with other CubeSats stored in the launcher. The TunaCan is especially important for deployment mechanisms on CubeSats that cannot be launched from within the CubeSat such as the antenna deployer developed for this project. The appearance and maximum dimensions of TunaCan are demonstrated in Figure 1.2.

Figure 1.2: TunaCan Appearance and Max Size [1]

1.3. Problem Definition

The new CubeSat Skyana that will be developed by the UVic Center for Aerospace Research team requires a deployable HF antenna to transmit radio signals in the 10-meter amateur radio band to their ground station located on the University of Victoria campus. The desired frequency range is from 29.30 MHz to 29.52 MHz. This antenna poses significantly more challenges compared to previous antennas installed and deployed on CubeSats due to the antenna length required to transmit in the 10-meter band.

1.4. Project Goal

The goal of this project is to design, construct, and test a successful deployable HF antenna system which meets the requirements set by the project supervisors, Peter Driessen and Levente Buzas. The antenna system will include a deployment mechanism, an antenna, impedance matching, and enclosure.

1.5. Scope

The scope of the project extends to the bounds of the antenna system. The projects only includes the development of an enclosure for the antenna system, a deployment mechanism and control circuit, stowable antennas, and impedance matching hardware. The components and prototype constructed will also require extensive testing to determine their performance.

1.6. Motivation

Our group was initially drawn to this project because of our collective interest in wireless communication and spacecraft. Since this project is part of the larger Skyana satellite development, we will receive valuable insights into project management. We will also have the opportunity to deepen our knowledge of HF antennas, RF systems, and the development process of spacecraft.

1.7. Societal Impact

The successful completion of this project will allow for the development of a small form factor 30MHz antenna deployment system. This could benefit many industries, but in particular, UAV and satellite industries.

1.8. EGBC Code of Ethics

During the Literature Review, we adhered to the EGBC (Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia) Code of Ethics and did our due diligence with documentation. All findings were presented clearly and decisions were made collectively. The project is being guided by a retired Professor from UVic with many years of antenna design experience, Peter Driessen, and the Team Lead at CfAR Levente Buzas. Therefore, the practices established by the government or Engineers and Geoscientists BC are being followed.

2. Objectives

The project objectives are described below. These objectives include the major objectives of the project such as the testing and validation of the final prototype as well as the milestone objectives used to guide the design development. 

 

  • Design a deployable high-frequency (HF) antenna for the 10m amateur radio band that can transmit television video to ground stations.
  • Adhere to the mechanical and electrical requirements and constraints imposed by UVic’s Center for Aerospace Research.
  • Present detailed design concepts to the UVic Center for Aerospace Research to ensure that the design meets the industry standards.
  • Test the antenna system deployment mechanism to ensure full and consistent deployment.
  • Test the performance of the antenna system using an antenna analyzer to ensure performance meets requirements.
  • Test the antenna communication capabilities by transmitting television video to the ground station.

3. Constraints and Requirements

The requirements and constraints imposed for the Skyana HF antenna system are described by the frequency range, size, mass, compatibility, testing, resonance, and input return loss [3].

 

  • Frequency Range: The antenna is designed for the 10-meter amateur radio band, specifically the frequency range 29.3 to 29.52 MHz.
  • Size: The antenna and deployment system must have a volume of less than 90 x 90 x 50 mm.
  • Mass: The antenna and deployment system must have a mass of less than 800g.
  • Antenna Deployment System: The antenna deployment system must not use or contain any pyrotechnic devices or pressure vessels. Furthermore, all components of the deployment system must remain attached to the spacecraft.
  • Launcher Compatibility: The antenna must be compatible with the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer Payload Envelope specifications.
  • Testing: The antenna must be testable by electronic test equipment in Earth’s gravity environment.
  • Resonance: The antenna must be a resonant antenna matched to 50 Ohms.
  • Input Return Loss: The antenna must have an input return loss of less than 10 dB over the entire frequency range.