The T-Sat1 Nanosatellite Design and Implementation Through a Team of Teams

The T-Sat1 Nanosatellite Design and Implementation Through a Team of Teams

Witold Kinsner, Dario Schor, Reza Fazel-Darbandi, Brendan Cade, Kane Anderson, Cody Friesen, Scott McKay, Diane Kotelko, Philip Ferguson
DOI: 10.4018/jcini.2013010102
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It is very challenging to design complex machines and systems that operate in very difficult remote locations, under largely unknown or uncertain conditions. Specifications for such systems must be extremely detailed and extensive, with input from professionals who have designed such systems before, and who gained considerable experience from their operations. Since much of the operating environment is not known in advance, cognitive informatics and computing should play a critical role in such design and operation. This paper describes such a complex system, the T-Sat1 nanosatellite, including its characteristics, its mission, subsystems, as well as the development of specifications, protocols for verification, testing, launch, early operating procedures, and concepts for nominal operations. Particular attention is given to the formation and maintenance of a team of teams, with a multitude of their interactions. The design teams must focus on the satellite subsystems, assembly, integration and testing. The teams of advisors (from academia, aerospace and other industries, business, military, government, and other organizations such as the radio community) must focus on optimal assistance provided to the corresponding design teams.
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1. Introduction

The Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC) was introduced in 2010 to provide undergraduate and graduate students with an opportunity to design, build, and test an operational nanosatellite (Geocentrix et al., 2009). The competition ends in September 2012, after which the winning spacecraft will be launched into low-Earth-orbit. The CSDC plans to expand the understanding and skills learned in their university courses through hands-on experience designing and managing a large complex project. The University of Manitoba (UofM) team consists of more than 100 registered undergraduate and graduate students from Engineering, Science, Business, Architecture, and Art, all collaborating on the T-Sat1 mission and achieving good results (e.g., (Kinsner et al., 2011b; Schor et al., 2011; Schor et al., 2012b)). The students belong to the University of Manitoba Space Applications and Technology Society (UMSATS), and rely on an infrastructure consisting of more than 50 advisors from academia, industry, business, military and government that provide valuable feedback on the project (Kinsner et al., 2011b).

The T-Sat project can be described in terms of two distinct, yet interdependent, parts: the satellite itself and the teams making up the stakeholders for the project. The satellite (Figure 1) includes two scientific payloads with the supporting electronics and the satellite bus, as described in Sections 2 and 3 of this paper. They form the technical elements for the mission and can be considered an example for teaching complex system design that would lead to cognitive machines in years to come (Kinsner, 2007). The requirements (Geocentrix et al., 2009; Geocentrix, 2011a; Geocentrix, 2011b) provide a broad set of constraints for the mission with ample room for creativity on part of the students while being exposed to interdependencies that lead to trade-off in performance, costs, development schedule, and many other important parameters. At the same time, the “team of teams” consists of many small groups of students working on different satellite subsystems, a system (SYS) team that oversees the overall project, and teams of advisors that review the progress and offer feedback. The hierarchical structure for the teams works like local-neighbourhoods in particle swarm optimization that allow for creativity and exploration of solutions within the teams, while the T-Sat team at the high level converges to a solution in the design of the satellite (Schor & Kinsner, 2011).

Figure 1.

T-Sat1 in orbit rendition


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