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For a little change of pace from all of these wonderful technical blogs, I think it’s time for a little break to let loose our imagination and curiosity. This’ll (hopefully) be a nice little series where you and I both will go on an adventure learning and exploring some exciting space theories that have been conjured up!

First up, lets explore the Fermi Paradox. The Fermi Paradox named after physicist Enrico Fermi, is an argument explored by him as well physicist Michael H. Hart, about the obvious contradiction between the high probability estimates for the existence of extra-terrestrial civilisations.

Brief Overview

Some of the main points put forward are:

  • There are billions of stars in the universe, many much older and larger in size when compared to our sun.
  • There is a very high possibility that there are many Earth like planets orbiting many of those suns.
  • Some of those Earth like planets, even if this is very rare, may have developed some form of intelligent life. Given that there are billions and billions of Earth like planets even if a very small percentage of planets had the perfect conditions for the emergence of life, this would still be an enormous figure.
  • Some of these countless civilisations may have developed interstellar travel capabilities. Even using the slow means of interstellar we have now, the Milky Way could be completely transversed within a few million years. Considering the fact that the universe has been around for around 14 Billion Years, a few million years is not a long time considering the age of the universe!

Just look at us humans in our attempts at travelling into space, having started just over 100 years ago. Considering the age of the universe, 100 years is merely an instant, like a very insignificant blink. We’ve only just barely started developing space travel technologies. From the development of liquid-fuel rocket engines developed during WWII for military use to the very first manned mission to the moon in 1969. It’s common knowledge now days that current day smartphones are far more capable interms of its computing power when compared to the computing capabilities used to get the very first man to the moon.

Just take a minute to think about how far we’ve actually come! We’ve successfully established the ISS Space Station, with a mission to always have human kind permanently living in space. Not just space travel technologies, but think about all of the advances that we have made in medicine, infrastructure, transportation systems, the internet and IoT capabilities and the list just keeps on going and going! And that is just amazing in my opinion. And this is just in the last 100 years. Now imagine what a civilisation can do in 1000 years! What about 1 000,000 years!

So Where are They?

Because there is all of this solid reasoning and evidence supporting the existence of extra-terrestrial civilisations, the question becomes “Where are they?”. Why are we not constantly seeing Alien life flying around the universe in space ships?

Well maybe the conditions for the formation of intelligent life is much more rare than what was initially thought! Maybe we on Earth are just really really lucky! OR It could even mean that we might be the very first civilisation to exist -> that would be so cool!

Maybe intelligent life does exist elsewhere and it might just be that they are yet to develop any kind of advanced enough technologies that can be used to explore the universe. Considering that throughout the life of the Earth only one species has been able develop enough intelligence to achieve some form of space travel might indicate that intelligent life might be incredibly rare, almost non-existent.

Maybe its in the nature of an intelligent civilisation to destroy itself, or destroy others? Have a read of some of the possible explanations put forth in this info graphic.

Info-graphic postulating the answer to “Where are they?” (Source)

Hopefully this has caught your interest a little, it has certainly intrigued me quite a lot! We at BLUEsat enjoy talking about some of these concepts, and lets look forward to the next space theory!

 


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BLUEsat has had yet another incredible month; with great success at our first Showcase event, the formation of our Outreach team, UNSW Open day shenanigans and great progress in all our teams! On other exciting news, our Rover team is leaving for Poland in under a week for the European Rover Challenge (ERC)! The Groundstation team has begun work on a new project involving Doppler-based tracking. The CubeSat team has also made some great progress, with ADCS working on a detumbling algorithm and designing a PCB, and successful battery chargers made and tested by the Power team.

Rover

From the Rover CTO

The team is leaving for Poland in just 1 week’s time! We are all extremely excited and are looking forward to some great results. Make sure to follow our progress on the Facebook page and cheer us on.

Thomas Renneberg, Robotics CTO

From the Software TeamBLUEsat Rover Science Module

The software team has been finalising various components in preparation for the upcoming competition. Calibrations for our SLAM system are ongoing, whilst multiple training and test runs of the rover have allowed us to fine tune the control system our operators use. The team is also finalising the I2C communication for the science module sensors so that it can be fully integrated into the system.

We have also been busy introducing and integrating new members into the team, with workshops on ROS and our agile workflow running most Saturdays of the previous month. This is promising growth and should help in the continued formalisation of our team structure and procedures.

William Miles, Rover Software Chapter Lead

From the Mechanical Team

The mechanical team last month has finished all the required systems for the rover in preparation for the coming challenge, including the mounting and gimbal system, arm-span expansion, the rover’s handle and the science module.

For next year’s challenge, the team has already started researching and improving the rover. In particular, the new arm already has its first design. Our senior members also ran some manufacturing workshops for BLUEsat members, most notably the 3D printing workshop.

Quoc Trung (Alex) Vo, Rover Mechanical Chapter Lead

From the Electrical TeamBLUEsat's advanced RF apparatus in an anechoic environment

We have come a long way in the last 31 days and nights with lots of ups and downs. We started off with some fruitful soldering sessions, through which we have got 4 more Generic PCBs up and running. Thanks to the kind support from Timothy Guo in the Satellite team, we have completed comprehensive testings on the radio communication system with advanced RF apparatus in an anechoic environment. The month was concluded by a successful arm operation over controller area network with joint efforts from all 3 teams.

We have also heard great news from the science squad, where Jessica Li successfully got all the sensors working with a Generic PCB. After a bit of work on the science module PCB, we should be able to take on some scientific tasks in the competition.

Jonathan Wong, Rover Electrical Chapter Lead

From the Chief Pilot

The ERC Away team has started outdoor rover training with proper camera navigation and co-pilot driving. Weekly rover training sessions have now been extended to four hours each day, with at least one outdoor session every week until the team flies to Poland.

Sajid Anower, Rover Chief Pilot

Satellite

From the Groundstation Team

The Groundstation team recently began a new project in the software-defined radio (SDR Stream). We have been given the task to assist with Doppler-based tracking. The project entails receiving the raw signal from the EC0 (at 436.525 MHz) and saving the data without any modulation, filtering or any processing to ensure we capture the Doppler shift. The team has developed a program that will save the data in question into a .wav file, we have yet to test the program.

Joerick Aligno, Groundstation Squad Lead

From the Satellite Power Team

The power team has finally completed testing on its battery chargers and with good news – it works! The battery monitoring system components have arrived and now the last step is to manufacture and test it. Our next steps are to integrate all the subsystems we have created so far into a single board which is a complete system.

William Chen, Satellite Power Squad Lead

From the ADCS Team

The ADCS team has been working on writing a detumbling algorithm and designing a PCB for the satellite. The detumbling program has been split into parts and written by different people. Three out of four parts have been completed, with the fourth underway. The PCB design is in progress, with custom schematic parts and footprints being made in Kicad. As it stands, all planned custom parts have been made and the schematic has been started.

Olivia Yem, ADCS Squad Lead

From the GreenSat Team

GreenSat now has a new task at hand. With the biology team now attaining a lab and having a supply stream of rhizobacteria, with already defined limitations the need for an incubator has now come to a close. The GreenSat team is now planning out how to build the actual vessel that the bacteria will be stored in for the CubeSat.

Rajiv Narayan, GreenSat Squad Lead

From the High-Altitude Balloon Team

The HAB team has begun preliminary design of our high-altitude platform (HAP). We have begun corresponding with the researchers in Italy to determine basic requirements for their radar, like power and dimensions.

I will be designing the HAP bus, which includes power modules and onboard computers, as well as interfaces. Jeffrey will be designing control systems to stabilise the SAR antenna against gondola motion. Emma is in charge of the mechanical design of the HAP, which will include structure and materials. Timothy will be managing the radio communications and tracking of the HAP while in flight.

Adithya Rajendran, Balloon Squad Lead

Operations & Exec

Secretary’s Update

It’s been another fantastic month for BLUEsat!

BLUEsat Showcase
UNSW BLUEsat Showcase Event. Photo by Ryan Stuart Photography

We had our first ever Showcase, which allowed UNSW students and other interested people to find out more about our society and the various projects we do. It went really well, with interesting stalls showcasing our projects and great presentations from our team leads, as well as special talks from Mark Hoffman, the Dean of Engineering at UNSW, and our academic supervisor Elias Abountanious. (Special thanks to the student opportunities team at UNSW for helping organise the event!)

Another new member orientation day brought BLUEsat some new faces of passionate students ready to learn, with a fun board games night that followed as usual.

BLUEsat’s Media and Events team has expanded this month, with the formation of our School Outreach team. The team has begun organising and getting started with planning workshops for high school students to help increase their interest in STEM activities and engineering. We plan to collaborate with UNSW’s AIAA Rocketry Team on these workshops and encourage more inter-society collaboration within the university as well!

This Saturday, for UNSW’s Open day, BLUEsat members helped out at two stalls. In the first, they were telling people about BLUEsat along other Student-Led Project stalls. At the other stall, we ran soldering workshops, where interested people could make their own electronic dice kit with a small battery and LEDs to replicate a standard playing die.

Overall, this has been a very busy yet rewarding month.

Anita Smirnov, Secretary

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What are solid state relays?

Solid state relays (SSRs), or OCMOS FETs, are a type of switching device that has no moving parts (as opposed to the regular relay). These have the same function as electromechanical relays; allowing high current and/or voltage through a load in response to a low input voltage and current.

Solid State Relays vs Electromechanical Relays

Solid state and electromechanical relays both have extremely high input impedances, which act to isolate the input from the output. But despite the similarity, SSRs consist of no moving parts, giving them some special functions.

Elecrtomechanical relay
Fig 1 Elecrtomechanical Relay
Solid state relay circuit
Fig 2 Solid State Relay

SSR pros

  • Since there are no inductive coils, they do not generate electromagnetic interference with the load.
  • Silent in operation, (although I personally like a clicking sound of relays).
  • Have no moving parts so they are not subject to mechanical wear and tear.
  • Do not have switch bouncing.
  • Have higher frequency switching capabilities.
  • The number of safety components is much greater in SSRs than in electromechanical relays.

SSR cons

  • Unlike the electromechanical relay in Fig 1, where there is a clear break between the movable contact and the stationary contact in the off state, the solid state relay will still have a ‘closed’ circuit output even there is no input, which leads to some leakage currents.
  • If the SSR breaks down (for example at the triac, which is the symbol that looks like 2 inverted diodes) in the optocoupler results in a short circuit (permanently switched on). Whereas a breakdown in the electromechanical relay usually results in an open circuit (permanently switched off), which makes it dangerous in a lot of situations; especially when building one yourself, where over-voltage and over-current is required.

How the solid state relay circuit works

The SSR relies on different forms of diodes and transistors for its operation as a DC-DC, DC-AC, or AC-AC switch. The AC-AC switch just converts the input into a DC waveform and then proceeds to regulate it, making it into the aforementioned switches.

Starting from the input side, which is the DC control, on the left-hand side of the SSR circuit, there is a diode D1 which is connected in reverse bias. When the diode is turned on, it will indicate that the input connections are the wrong way around.

The next part which is the overcurrent protection prevents too much current flowing through the diode inside the optocoupler. The input will have a DC voltage range, by which if the range is compromised, the transistor Tr1 (which has a limiting resistor R2 biasing it just under cutoff) will pull it into the saturation region. This will make the transistor act as another resistive source; lowering the amount of current flowing into the optocoupler.

The optocoupler is an optical isolation device and is the basis for the high input resistance. It works by shining a light (in this case, an LED) on a photo-detecting device which can turn on and off.

The triac is a type of switch that has 4 modes of operation, as listed below. All that is needed to know is that in quadrant 1, when there is a forward positive voltage past some threshold, a positive current runs. When there is a reverse voltage, a reverse current runs. This makes SSRs applicable to AC circuits; as shown in the figures below.

Triac ciruit 1The four modes of operation of a triac for solid state relays

four modes of operation of the triac in the quadrants

Triac 4 operating modesThe TVS diode is a form of a voltage surge protection that removes transient spikes by clamping the output voltage to a voltage range. You can think of it as 2 zener diodes in which one is forward and another is reverse biased.

The RC snubber just removes high-frequency transients from switching. Another thing to note is even when the SSR is off there is leakage current flowing through this circuit so you must ALWAYS turn the circuit off.

As shown above, the triac will work for AC outputs. For DC outputs, the triac can be replaced with high power MOSFETs that would just switch the load on and off. Also notice that the load is connected on the neutral side. If connected on the live side, an open circuit would occur, and if you touch the load you may create a path for the current to flow and you will at the very least be in the hospital.

SSR Considerations 

Like electromechanical relays, SSRs have the ability to be switched on by micro-controllers with low voltage and current. The main advantage of this is the ability for fast switching. Whereas regular electromechanical relays suffer from contact bounce as mentioned earlier, they typically has a maximum switching rate of around 10ms (100Hz); SSRs can switch at a higher frequency.

There are several variables that require attention when buying an SSR for micro-controller use. The first thing is finding the SSR with the correct DC input voltages. Depending on the other requirements, a level-up translator can be used as an additional interface.

One of the biggest benefits of the SSR is its ability to turn on at zero voltage, which reduces back emf from large loads like heaters. So if the SSR is running large inductive loads, you will probably need to look at SSRs with this feature first. But this will also mean that if a pulse train is being used, the frequency must be low enough to facilitate the load frequency. E.g. if the load frequency is 50Hz, your switching frequency should at maximum be around half (i.e if it just crosses the zero mark then you have to wait half a cycle) though ideally, it should be less.

Then you must look at variables such as the maximum output power that can be handled by the SSR, and whether or not your load is AC or DC. The SSR inhabits internal resistance which means that it can heat up a lot during usage.

Triacs also have something called phase control, which means that you can control at what point in the waveform you switch the load on and off. This is useful because it allows for maximum power control. For example, if you have a sine wave, the maximum voltage will occur at 90 degrees, so you might want to limit the phase between 75 degrees and 105 degrees, then adding 180 for the negative part from 225 to 285. This phase control can only really be done in SSRs with no zero on mode. To control the phase, apply an impulse on the gate side of the triac when the voltage through the load is at the point that you would like it to be. But you have to be careful as this method of switching the triac on and off rapidly from ground can create high transient voltages.

Another thing to look at is how the SSR will be mounted, there are 3 different types of mounts the PCB, panel and DIN rail mount.

Summary of things to consider

  • Control Voltage (input voltage) – find the correct range of operation (max turn-on and min turn-off voltage).
  • Max input current can also be given by the input impedance requirement
  • Max turn-on time and turn off time – maximum response time between an on or off from input to the output.
  • Load current – Does the SSR need a heat sink? Check the minimum as well for correct operation.
  • Zeroed SSR, or non-zero (for phase control regulation)
  • Type of mount – PCB, panel or DIN rail.

Applications of SSRs

Latching solid state relay circuit

One application of the SSR is a latch, this is useful for things such as kettles, where an input pulse would indicate a start, and latch onto that state until it is interrupted. Following that example, if the temperature of the water has reached 95+ degrees Celsius, the SSR would indicate that the stop sequence should run.

phase-controlled dimmingAs stated earlier, you can change the pulse sequence in order to change the amount of the output wave used. A good thing to add here would be a phase detector so that when even when using a non-zero SSR, the dimming is done such that the pulse turns off when there is a zero crossover. This prevents transients from occurring.

Despite this being a very broad overview of a simple SSR and some random applications, if you ever require a high load switching and a circuit that isn’t very bulky, SSRs are the way to go.


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Welcome to the next installment in my series on the ROS transform system (ROS tf). In my previous article I explained how BLUEsat’s Rovers all run on the Robotics Operating System (ROS), and what the ROS tf system was all about. In this article I will introduce a number of useful tools and packages that allow us to take advantage of ROS transforms, with very little code involved.

First we’ll look at the Robot State Publisher – a simple tool for publishing basic transforms of robots joints using a model of your robot. Then I will demonstrate visualising TF trees in RQT, a useful way to identify problems with your transform system. Finally I will explain how to visualise the movement of your robot using RViz.

Using Robot State Publisher

The standard ROS packages include a number of ways to to publish transforms with little or no code.  One of the most useful of these is the robot state publisher, which takes in a URDF file modelling your robot, and outputs static transforms for fixed joints. It also listens for joint messages to publish the position of other joints. Creating a URDF file is outside the scope of this article, but I recommend the SolidWorks to URDF converter, although it is no longer maintained.

The robot state publisher package is effective because it abstracts away a lot of the work you would otherwise need to do. Developers only need to publish message describing an angular rotation, velocity or extension of a joint (depending on the type – more later). There’s even a UI you can use for testing provided by the joint state publisher ROS package.

Starting the publisher is reasonably simple. First you need to define the location of your urdf file. If you are using a ROS launch file then you can simply add the following line to your launch file.

<param name="robot_description" command="$(find xacro)/xacro '$(find owr_bluetounge2_tf)/robots/owr_bluetounge2_tf.URDF'" />

Replacing owr_bluetounge2_tf with the the name of the ROS package your urdf file is in and /robots/owr_bluetounge2_tf.URDF with the path to your urdf file within the the package folder. If you want, you can also get rid of the $(find ... ) section completely and just use an absolute path.

Then to run the node itself, add the following line to the file and then run it using the roslaunch command.

<node name="robot_state_publisher" pkg="robot_state_publisher" type="state_publisher" />

A complete file can be found on our GitHub.

By itself this will only publish the “static transforms.” These are the ones not associated with moving joints. To get ROS to publish transforms for joints that move we need to provide it with either an “extension”, “rotation” or “velocity” for the joint. The type of value depends on what type of joint you defined in your urdf. In terms of units ROS standardises measurements in meters, radians, and m/s for distance, rotation and speed respectively.

Now that you have your robot model set up, you probably want to test it. The easiest way to do this is with the “joint_state_publisher”. This provides a simple GUI to publish those topics.

A gui generated by ROS's robot_state_publisher tool that shows a range of sliders used to control ROS transforms
You can use the joint_state_publisher in parallel with the robot_state_publisher to control transforms.

To run the “joint_state_publisher” simply type:

rosrun joint_state_publisher joint_state_publisher _use_gui:=true

This is useful for testing, but for the actual operation of your robot you probably want to automate this. To do this you need to publish one or more “sensor_msgs/joint_states” message on the /joint_states topic describing the states of your joints.

As well as a standard ROS header describing time information, the message contains four arrays. The first is “names” and corresponds to the names of your joints in the urdf file. This defines the order for the values in the other three arrays; “position”, “velocity”, “effort”. To preserve ordering, you need to define each named joint in all three other arrays, but the joint state publisher will only consider position or velocity depending on the type of joint.

Visualising TF Trees in RQT

Once you have your transform tree up and running, you probably want to check that it is working as expected – this is where RQT comes in. If you haven’t encountered RQT before, I recommend you take a look at our previous tutorial on debugging ROS systems. As I mentioned in that article, RQT is basically a Swiss army knife full of handy ROS tools. You start it by typing rqt in the terminal, with roscore running.

In this case the plugin we are looking for is simply called the “TF Tree” tool. You can find it in the “Plugins” menu under “Visualisation”. It allows you to see the connections in your TF tree, when they last updated, and most importantly, any gaps in the tree.

The image below is a great example of this. We can see that there are several disjoint trees. This is a good indication that something is wrong with our ROS system. In order for us to be able to transform between all of the robot’s co-ordinate systems we need to be able to transform freely.

A visualisation of the BLUEtongue Rover's TF Tree in RQT. Showing several disjointed trees.
In this RQT screenshot the the BLUEtongue Rover’s TF Tree is shown as several disconnected graphs. This means that some of the transforms we were expecting are missing.

In the case above this is because the robot state publisher has not received states for all of the joints it is expecting. But other causes may include a node not running or a localisation system that hasn’t collected sufficient sensor data yet.

3D Representations of your Robot in RViz

Finally let’s visualise the transforms we have been working. This is where RViz comes in.

RViz contains method for visualising a range of different transformed data. First let’s see our robot in its transformed state.

The RViz window is split into three columns. From left to right. The first displays information about the data you are visualising, the second displays a 3D scene that will contain the data and the third contains information about the camera.

To add your robot, make sure you have joint state publisher running as described above. Then click “Add” in the left hand column. A list of data types should appear in a new window. Select “Robot Model.” You should get something like the below image.

The BLUEtongue 2.0 Rover visualised on a 3D Plane in ROS's RViz tool.
The BLUEtongue 2.0 Rover fully visualised in RViz using the joint state publisher.

Now try moving some of the joints using the joint state publisher. The corresponding part of your robot should move!

Have a play around in RViz and see what else you can visualise.

Thanks for reading this installation of my series on the ROS transform (TF) system. Please, stay tuned for the next instalment where I will cover using these transforms to process data in code!


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It had been a fantastically busy month at BLUEsat, with conferences, orientation days, new members and great progress in all our teams! Among other things, the NUMBAT Rover is almost ready to compete in the European Rover Challenge (ERC), the Groundstation team has made progress on a transceiver for the SDR, and new battery charging boards have been developed by the Satellite Power Team.

Rover

From the Rover CTO

BLUEsat's NUMBAT rover with PCB lights
BLUEsat’s NUMBAT Rover in the dark, with the PCB lights showing

The Off World Robotics team is finalising our preparation for the European Rover Challenge in September, having just completed our promotional video this past week. There is a lot left to do, but the team is getting excited to compete.

Thomas Renneberg, Robotics CTO & Mech Chapter Lead

From the Software Team

Over the last month, the arm has been attached and is now operating, though we are looking to get it fully integrated into the CAN bus system.

The ROS over CAN is nearing its final stages, with testing of a driving module yielding very positive results. In the lead up to the competition, we will be finalising and testing a whole range of systems across the rover.

Simon Ireland, Rover Software Chapter Lead

From the Mechanical Team

The mechanical team has been completing the remaining systems required for this year’s competition as well as preparing new projects for next year.

PCBs on a reflow oven tray
PCBs on a reflow oven tray

In particular, we have just finished modifications to the older BLUEtongue rover arm that allow it to be used on the NUMBAT system as well as increasing its range. Planning has begun for a new version of the mechanical arm as well as new wheel systems.

Thomas Renneberg, Robotics CTO & Mech Chapter Lead

From the Electrical Team

It’s been a tough month for the team with some members being away during the break. After the exams we jump-started some intense testing and debugging for the Generic PCBs and successfully got 5 boards working, which sufficed for all NUMBAT modules. Following the arm assembly, Jessica Li and I passed the advanced amateur radio test along with several other BLUEsat members and earned our radio licenses for the ERC. With the completion of wiring and the finalisation of the radio communication system, we are clear to start our last and biggest round of PCB production before our trip.

Jonathan Wong, Rover Electrical Chapter Lead

From the Chief Pilot

Rover training has started with the new NUMBAT rover, with people getting familiar with crab steering. BLUEtongue has been retired.

Sajid Anower, Rover Chief Pilot

Satellite

From the Satellite CTO

BLUEsat's new Member Intro Day for Semester 2 presentations
BLUEsat’s new Member Intro Day for Semester 2 presentations

The Satellite team has entered Semester 2 of 2018 and officially welcomes two new team leads; Rajiv Narayan and Olivia Yem. Already our new team leads and existing leads have demonstrated outstanding leadership through our new member Intro Day for Semester 2, resulting in a great success and receiving praising from both faculty and students. Well done to the teams and supporters.

Timothy Guo, Satellite CTO

From the Groundstation Team

The Groundstation team has been making progress working on developing the Transceiver for the SDR. Currently we have placed the Receive and Transmit modules together in the same program and have a temporary ‘Push-to-Talk’ solution in place. This temporary solution has allowed us to Transmit only when the ‘Push-to-Talk’ is activated and Receive otherwise. The current solution is only temporary as the functions used will become deprecated in future versions of GNURadio. We will have to find an alternative solution to this over the coming month.

Joerick Aligno, Groundstation Squad Lead

From the Satellite Power Team

The power team has been testing out the newly manufactured battery charging boards. The results are promising; they are able to fully charge a depleted battery up to near full charge. The small kickbacks are that they are not charging to full capacity nor at the desired speeds. This is likely due to limitations in the testing environment which were designed for speed and flexibility rather than reliability and accuracy. Further testing will be done with better equipment. The testing of batteries have also seen the first real use of the power team’s dummy load testing apparatus, which can simulate loads at different currents and voltages. In the following month, we will see the manufacturing and testing of the new battery monitoring boards, as well as an infrared sensing array and a solar tracker being completed by the power team’s newer members.

William Chen, Satellite Power Squad Lead

From the ADCS Team

This past month has been a transition period, with a new team lead and new team members, and some delay due to the holidays. There has been an emphasis on the organisation of the team and on the introduction of new members.

There has been progress in developing a single axis magnetorquer, with team members working on designing the PCB and beginning the code to control the magnetorquer. The PCB requires custom footprints, and code has been written to acquire data from our sensors.

Olivia Yem, ADCS Squad Lead

From the GreenSat Team

The GreenSat team has been working on further developing its plan for its incubator; incorporating a software component to it for easier data analysis. The mechanical side has also started doing some thermal analysis which will be incorporated into the first prototype of the payload.

Rajiv Narayan, GreenSat Squad Lead

From the High-Altitude Balloon Team

The HAB team is working towards building a high-altitude platform to carry a Synthetic-Aperture Radar payload. This month, the project is getting under way as our thesis students (Adithya and Jeffrey) meet with their supervisors and clarify mission parameters. The project is now well-defined, with a clear idea of who will be responsible for each major component. Stay tuned for monthly updates and blog posts on this exciting project.

Adithya Rajendran, Balloon Squad Lead

Operations & Exec

Secretary’s Update

It has been a very eventful month at BLUEsat, despite the holiday break!

BLUEsat's President, Raghav Hariharan.
BLUEsat’s President, Raghav Hariharan. Photo taken by AYAA

Early in July, the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) held a fantastic CubeSat conference which involved talks from various people in the industry, networking opportunities and talks from some of BLUEsat’s members too!

Several members held a dice kit workshop for Nura Gili, where students learned to solder and make a small PCB that replicated the function of a die using LED lights. Later in the month, several of our members had the amazing opportunity to attend the Aerospace Futures conference in Canberra, where they listened to talks, networked with incredible people in the space industry and leaned about the different ideas and applications of space engineering.

As the holidays came to an end, BLUEsat members spoke to new and returning UNSW students about our aim to help students learn through our various projects at an Orientation Day stall.

As mentioned before, we had a major New Member Intro Day on the 28th of July where new members gained a better understanding of the society with presentations about the teams and practical workshops.

BLUEsat is also looking into doing more outreach activities to help high school students and perhaps other demographics become more excited about engineering!

BLUEsat is having its first showcase event on the 10th of August, with an introduction to the society, presentations, demonstrations of our projects, stalls, and free food. If you’re interested in coming along, head over to Eventbrite to register for your free ticket.

Anita Smirnov, Secretary

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On the 22nd of July, BLUEsat concluded its annual Winter Amateur Radio Training session for 2018 with an amazing pass rate of every participant in this year’s cohort! Special thanks are delivered to the St George Amateur Radio Society (SGARS), for their support and enthusiasm to see the next generation of Australia radio operations come to success.Groundstation team setting up radio

Amateur Radio (HAM Radio) is the practice of using radio frequencies for different purposes; including the non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, recreation and emergency communications. BLUEsat uses this certification primarily in our projects for Off-World Robotics, Groundstation and High-Altitude Ballooning. This consequently requires members to participate in the Amateur Radio program in order to attain the certification to communicate on certain frequencies and at the required power levels.

Groundstation radio communication with EC0 CubeSat

However, not all participants necessarily study to gain permission to transmit without getting arrested. The program is very educational, with material involving electrical and electronics theory, inviting students with an interest in understanding more about radio and telecommunication technologies.

BLUEsat Amateur Radio 2018 graduates
BLUEsat Amateur Radio 2018 graduates

Amateur Radio is also a hobby, with an entire community of Amateur Radio station owners and operators, BLUEsat is one of the many in Australia and over the world. SGARS regularly hold gatherings, meetings and training session for HAM Radio veterans and newcomers. For the past 4 years, SGARS have facilitated over 30 UNSW examinees and more to come. BLUEsat’s next Amateur Radio program is likely to be held in the Summer of 2019 in order to avoid a clash with UNSW new trimester system. If you are interested, contact us here. If you cannot wait that long, SGARS holds regular training and examination session with schedules listed here.


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This is the finale to the exciting trilogy of days at the Aerospace Futures Conference in Canberra. Day 1 has been posted here and day 2 has been posted here.


It is the final day, and yet, the Aerospace Conference could not help but pack in a day of endless presentations, Globemaster flypasts and a stunning finale dinner. Some of the biggest names among the recruiter presentations included Captain Andy Bauer and Keith Fernandes from Virgin Australia, Emily Frizell from Engineers Australia, Shena Howell representing Northrop Grumman, and Samantha Hearne from Defence Force.

Shena Howell Presenting at the Aerospace Futures Conference
Shena Howell representing Northrop Grumman

In the field of development, speakers introduced to us some exciting research projects in the field of aerospace. Dr Lyle Roberts showed how using two twin satellites, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) could detect anomalies in the Earth’s gravitational field, revealing data including the thinning of the Earth’s ice sheets, or the movement of magma and ocean circulation. Meanwhile, Thales presented their Stratobus, a stratospheric airship with capabilities ranging from military applications to providing a telecommunications platform enhancing 4G/5G coverage.

Globemasters flypast
Two C-17A Globemasters flypast over delegates

The Air Force made certain to demonstrate their capabilities, advancing from flight simulations of operating a helicopter, to organising a spectacular flypast with two C-17A Globemasters. The two aircraft function primarily as military transports typically involved in transportation and airdrop duties. An overhead flypast coordinated near Canberra’s airport with two 52m wingspan aircrafts was certainly a rare moment to be experienced.

The day closed with a finale dinner at the National Arboretum. We were joined by Dr Paul Scully-Power, who was the first Australian in space. He captivated audience members with his inspiring journey and vision, bestowing us with the duty of Australian aerospace leaders for this generation and the one to come. He ended the presentation with an announcement that the next Aerospace Futures conference will be held in Sydney.

Dr Paul Scully presenting at the Aerospace conference
Dr Paul Scully-Power presenting to delegates

With the conference concluding, the long week has connected us, taught us, and inspired us. Our team heads home bringing connections formed through the events and to take a deserving rest, anticipating the next Aerospace Futures that is to come.

The UNSW delegates at the Aerospace conference
The UNSW delegates at the finale dinner

Photo credit to Photography Team at Australian Youth Aerospace Association.


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In case you missed it, check out yesterday’s update on day 1 of the Aerospace Futures Conference!


Today was another fantastic conference day, with demonstrations and workshops from some of Australia’s best and brightest. The day kicked off with a showcase of some of UNSW Canberra’s space achievements such as the Buccaneer CubeSat and their Satellite tracking work.

UNSW Canberra Tracking and Satellite
UNSW Canberra Tracking and Satellite
Buccaneer Cubesat
Buccaneer Cubesat

This was followed by a fascinating keynote from Sandy Tirtey of Rocket Lab, who demonstrated some of their recent achievements with the Electron rocket. The company is quite an inspiration; demonstrating how the Oceanic region can generate large space industries.

Rocket Labs Electron rocket at the aerospace futures conference
Rocket Labs Electron rocket

The day featured many technical speeches, each covering areas of research and development in the aerospace industry. Of particular interest to the BLUEsat team was a presentation from Prof. Daniel Shaddock of the Australian National University who took us through his involvement with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project which has used laser interferometry to detect gravitational waves. We also heard from the CSIRO about their work in the space engineering field, in particular the development of the square kilometer radio array.

The team also had the opportunity to view the Australian Army’s new nano-drone – the Black Hornet. This drone only weighs 38g but is able to transmit high-quality video over 1km, operates silently and has a 30 minute battery life. The mechanical and software technologies going into this drone, and the Australian Army’s new equipment is awe-inspiring.

Army Nano-Drone
Army Nano-Drone

We are capping off the evening with a future workforce panel which will help us to not only find internships and employment, but also learn how to market ourselves as future leaders.


Tune in tomorrow for Timothy’s update about day 3 of the Aerospace Futures Conference!


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Aerospace Futures 2018

Excited! That’s exactly how I felt hopping onto the bus yesterday for the Aerospace Futures Conference. We had a wonderful bus ride down to Canberra chatting with the new friends we made as well as watching Tom working on CAD for the rover for the majority of the trip. Having been working hard for the majority of the holidays to get the rover ready for the ERC next month, this trip to Canberra was going to be an opportunity to unwind, network and make new friends for all of us attending.

Thomas working on CAD for the Rover, on our way to Aerospace Futures 2018
Thomas lives for the thrill of CAD

The Australian National University (ANU) Launch Night yesterday, held in the prestigious Parliament House, was a fantastic way to get the Aerospace Futures started. We were given an amazing chance to network with student delegates with the same excitement, interests and passion as us. A lot of new names to remember for sure.

This morning commenced with the introduction presentation from Ed Muthiah Chair of the Aerospace Futures conference, and the keynote speakers Micheal Frater and Russell Boyce from UNSW Canberra. They made it evident that the space industry is currently going through a paradigm shift, heading from the development of large, expensive space devices that require a long lead-time to the miniaturisation of satellites; meaning more affordability, accessibility and rapid development. There is also a much higher tolerance for risk, as, in fact, only about 30% of the micro-satellites launched are successful.

The development of the space industry doesn’t just mean we’ll learn more about the mysteries of the universe, that’s just one part (the best part in my personal opinion), but through the use of micro-satellites, we can gather data to help emergency situations, agriculture monitoring, defence and security measuring including maritime monitoring. It fascinates me that this is just the tip of the iceberg, there are much more industries that can greatly benefit from the continued development of our space capabilities in Australia.  Who knows what new skills and fields can emerge as a result!

At the morning tea, I met Peter, a Bachelor of Science and Physics student from ANU. I learnt from him that there are 5 different categories of supernova and that he was researching and monitoring a new supernova at the moment. A new supernova that was exhibiting the behaviours of three of those categories yet, not exactly fitting into one. It was awesome learning and hearing more about what he loved and frankly, I loved it too.

Suited up in the Parliament House before the Aerospace futures conference
Suited up ready for the ANU Launch Night!

The rest of the day was filled with presentations and stalls from Boeing, Myriota, Gilmore space, VIC government and so much more! The Aerospace Futures conference really provides a wonderful opportunity to youth just starting out their careers to expand their horizons. We were given an insight from employers that not only are they looking for academic and technical abilities but they are strongly eager to employ undergraduates who have passion and would make a perfect fit into the cultural aspects of the company. One of the best ways to do this is by getting hands-on experience at your university by building, breaking and improving actual physical projects. I strongly believe that student societies like BLUEsat are some of the best ways of going about doing this.

During an interview at the Aerospace Future Conference Jason Held from Sabre Astronautics explained that we don’t need to go to America to get involved and get a job in the aerospace industry, we can now do it here! And to me that is fantastic. I’m sure that many young people a few years ago, me included, previously believed that we need to go overseas to find employment in the aerospace sector where our passion lies.  But now with the formation of the Australian Space Agency, the drive for the Australian Aerospace sector has significantly increased and will definitely continue to improve.

Interview with Jason Held in the Aerospace Future Conference
Interview with Jason Held

Not only was it an awesome experience talking to industry, it was fun talking to other students about all the cool space projects that we at BLUEsat work on, as well as learning about what they do. We talked to Dawn Hui the Co-president from Sydney Women in Aerospace, a University of Sydney society and Gavan Huang the president from Professional Aeronautics and Astronautics Society at the University of Technology Sydney just to name a few. I can’t wait to find out who I’ll meet over the next few days, and am really looking forward to it!


Tune in tomorrow for Thomas’s update about day 2 of the Aerospace Futures Conference!


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