Highly Efficient Actuator and Testing Device for Use in Small Satellites

Technology #14391

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Researchers
Norman G. Fitz-Coy
Vivek Nagabhushan
Managed By
Richard Croley
Assistant Director 352-392-8929
Patent Protection
US Patent 9,091,606

Allows for Rapid Retargeting and Precision Pointing

This small satellite attitude actuator is capable of both rapid retargeting and precision pointing advantages. These small satellites are evolving rapidly as replacements to their traditional-sized counterparts because they can be speedily developed and launched at a fraction of current costs. They use smaller attitude-control actuators, which keep satellites in proper orientation. These components’ smaller size allows for development of miniature satellites. The components also need only an incredibly short window of time for manufacturing. Because of these developments, transition to miniature satellites is happening at an unprecedented rate. Researchers at the University of Florida have developed an attitude actuator that boasts both rapid retargeting and precision pointing advantages over all actuators on the market. Researchers have also developed an instrument for assessing the performance of attitude-control systems. This instrument, also known as GATorSense, is capable of overcoming all setbacks associated with current actuator testing: It can combat unwanted disturbances and provide full range of motion for more intricate simulations of true space episodes.

Application

Highly efficient actuator and testing device for use in small satellites

Advantages

  • Uses desirable, scaled-down technology, allowing for use in minituarized products
  • Targets a market with rapidly growing demand, adding to profit potential
  • Actuator allows for endless motion of gimbals and rapid retargeting, increasing efficiency and ease of use
  • Built- in sensors are first of their kind to offer position and velocity feedback, increasing effectiveness of product
  • GATorSense testing device overcomes all shortcomings of current, conventional ACS performance tests, providing better data and saving on costly miscalculation fees
  • Split flywheel design minimizes harmful jitter effects, allowing for better performance of entire satellite

Technology

Attitude control is the purposeful manipulation of outside forces as means of keeping satellites and other aircrafts in proper orientation. Vital to this control process are sensor-bearing actuators that can provide the necessary torque and measurements needed to keep satellites well aligned. The proposed actuator is a Control Moment Gyroscope (CMG) that has been designed for use in Pico-Satellites of all sorts. With its unique C-shaped structure and sling ring design, researchers were able to construct a product with endless motion capabilities and increased accuracy. Similarly, the small size and low power needs of this product offer competitive advantages in an industry where smaller is better. The corresponding testing device, GATorSense, is an instrument capable of characterizing the performance of these miniature attitude actuators with little to no disruptions from outside sources. Current tests cannot overcome limited ranges of motion and unwanted disturbances associated with simulated spacecraft dynamics. There is substantial demand for a system capable of efficiently assessing the performance of these newly designed satellite parts, and researchers at the University of Florida have designed a device that fills current market voids. Along with the two previously proposed technologies, researchers have also come up with a split flywheel design that would minimize attitude jitter and associated misreadings that pose significant industry bottlenecks for these new, smaller spacecrafts.