After 222 days of life in space, SwissCube is still working quite well. We have started to see some degradation in the high data rate communication link, but other critical functions such as beacon and power management are doing excellent. You will find some of the data showing the health of the satellite in the attached file. Federico, a student from EPFL, is trying to understand and characterize /analyze the communication link degradation during his semester project.
The rotation rate of the satellite has been decreasing again, as shown on the time plot in the attached file. New simulations from Arthur, a student at TU Delft in the Netherlands doing his master thesis at ISIS, shows that the onboard controller could be turned on very soon. If the validity of his simulation is confirmed, commands will be sent to the satellite that will start the “b-dot” controller. That will slow down the satellite’s rotation even faster.
Also, a new opportunity has arrived for increasing the operation’s time thanks to the new sponsorship of EATOPS. EATOPS is creating the third official SwissCube ground station in the Netherlands, and will help operating the satellite. This comes as a great opportunity when manpower is brought down to its minimum on our side. We welcome EATOPS onboard the project although their collaboration is not totally new, since as they have worked in parallel with the project, producing a great visual and data software (RIVOPS) and also provided SwissCube with a state-of-the-art mission control set-up. We also welcome Yann on our side who will be helping with the mission operations and extending our uplink capability (and other technical improvements to the satellite). Yann will be working with us part time until he starts his master in Computer Science.
SwissCube survived also the close approach on January 5th and on February 5th with remnant debris of the collision between IRIDIUM and COSMOS. See a picture in the attached file… It turns out also that the country of Equator was also concerned by atmospheric reentry and possible landing in their country and, thanks to them, we could follow live the close approach of January 5th. We hereby express our gratitude to Cmd. Ronnie Nader for setting up the link.
We have spend the last few weeks (or should I say months!) repairing our ground stations. At EPFL especially, we have seen the failure of the Elevation rotator and controller, and then of the Azimuth controller. This has significantly impaired our ability to communicate with the satellite. We also had to move the whole station to another floor of the building the ground station is in, and that created some perturbations and “re-alignments”…
In the upcoming month (of May), we will continue the repair of the ground station at EPFL, and a few minor things on the ground station at Fribourg, and then we will get ready for trying out the control strategy proposed by Arthur (TU Delft/ISIS). That will require the success of several commands and probably the contribution of RA outside Europe. But that should be fun to implement. More on that soon.
Hopefully more news coming to you soon.
Space Center EPFL
SwissCube Project Manager