2017.B.2.3. BIRDY-T: Focus on propulsive aspects of an iCubeSat to small bodies of the Solar System


Gary Quinsac (1,2,3)
Boris Segret (2,3)
Christophe Koppel (4)
Jyh-Ching Juang (5)
Kai Wu (6)

  1. PSL Research University, France
  2. Observatory of Paris, France
  4. KopooS Consulting Ind., France
  5. National Cheng Kung University, DEEE, Taiwan
  6. National Cheng Kung University, DAA, Taiwan




CubeSat, GNC, AOCS, propulsion, interplanetary, small body, autonomous


BIRDY-T is a technology under development for autonomous Guidance, Navigation and Control System for space science and exploration with CubeSats. Among the various crucial aspects, such as auto-navigation, space propulsion is essential. We have considered two case studies to assess the use of the possible propulsion systems. The first one intends to probe the interplanetary space weather on the way to Mars. Although the main ΔV can be provided by any host mission flying to Mars, the CubeSat will need a propulsion system to perform trajectory correction maneuvers up to 2 m/s during the cruise, as well as attitude control. The second one is a new concept for in-situ geodesy of asteroids developed in 2015. It would be carried and released on site by a mother-craft. Such a CubeSat can be sent to risky areas where the mother-craft would never go, such as flying inside the system of a double asteroid. Those proximity operations would require small trajectory correction maneuvers as well as main orbit modifications (total ΔV budget ~ 50 m/s for a 2-3 month mission) and attitude control. The results can be transposed to most interplanetary CubeSats or nanosatellites.

Although many solutions have been emerging in the recent years, scenarios such as proximity operations require new considerations in terms of performances. Classic parameters are already used (ΔV, force…) but they need to be adapted to those specific missions. This work intends to identify key parameters and metrics for BIRDY-T’s propulsion system. Then they will be applied to a set of CubeSat propulsion systems in order to discriminate the different technologies available.


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