CubeSats

The ultimate goal of BLUEsat UNSW’s CubeSat Division is to develop and send a satellite into space. The physical components of a satellite are deconstructed into subsystems and developed by individual student teams. BLUEsat currently has two components in production which are the ADCS and Power modules.

BLUEsat completed its original satellite in mid-2013, but it was not launched due to cost constraints. Founded in 1997 our satellite team is probably one of the oldest in Australia.

CubeSat ADCS Team

The second itteration of the Satellite Reaction Wheel.
The second iteration of the Satellite Reaction Wheel.

The Attitude Determination and Control System (ADCS) team works on developing hardware capable of determining and controlling the satellite’s attitude (orientation) in space. This allows the satellite to not only dampen any unwanted tumbling in space, but also to aim any directional equipment, such as cameras, telescopes and directional antennas.

Previous work completed by the team spans several designs and various means of achieving orientation control. As a starter project, the team demonstrated detumbling with magnetorquer, actively interacting with the earth’s magnetic field to slow the system’s rate of spin. Next, they shifted to development of reaction wheels – another ADCS actuation method. Single-axis control was achieved, this time with a proof-of-concept reaction wheel, while also researching into developing single-axis control utilising a brushless DC motor as used in space applications. Currently the ADCS team is working on developing a 3-axis reaction wheel for a 2U CubeSat, with the intention of making the design open-source for other CubeSat developers to use and modify freely. This is likely to be the first CubeSat 3-axis reaction wheel system developed in Australia.

Due to the unique requirements of this system, the ADCS team draws heavily from several disciplines at UNSW Sydney, including mechanical, electrical, software and control engineering. As such, we aim to train members to achieve proficiency across these areas regardless of their technical background, so as to develop a broader understanding of ADCS theory as well as a well-rounded technical skillset.

CubeSat Power Team

Two BLUEsat UNSW members soldering custom PCBs for our space engineering projects
Two BLUEsat UNSW members soldering custom PCBs for our space engineering projects

Reliable and efficient power systems are a huge part of a successful CubeSat mission. At BLUEsat, students from UNSW Sydney work together to design and integrate all aspects of a space-grade power system. From designing power regulator circuits, using maximum power point tracking to optimise solar panels, and comprehensive testing, the society ensures that all engineering aspects of the power system are covered.

The satelite battery charging board.
A custom PCB developed by our CubeSat Power Team to test charging lithium batteries.

Some of these aspects can be seen in the recent blog posts written by some members of the society such as our blogs on lithium-ion battery charging and maximum power point tracking. We’re always working on new problems though, so check back for more updates.

Within the BLUEsat power team, we work to give UNSW Sydney students real world engineering challenges and develop their skills beyond coursework. New members are given a unique design brief for a sensor and work with more experienced members of the society to develop their own PCB over a semester. Some of the successful sensor projects can also be found on our blog (link blog) such as our simple sun sensor. After completing this sensor project, students are able to make meaningful contributions to the CubeSat program.


Interested in space, electronics or just looking to further your engineering skills? UNSW Sydney student? All of us at BLUEsat UNSW are looking forward to seeing you. Head over to the link at ‘Join Us‘ for more details on where you can start.