2018.P.1.2. Assessment of the performances of propulsion systems for CubeSat exploring small bodies


Gary Quinsac (1)
Christophe Koppel (2)
Boris Segret (1)
Marco Agnan (3)
Benoit Mosser (1)
Daniel Hestroffer (4)
Jordan Vannistsen (3)

  1. Observatoire de Paris PSL, LESIA, France
  2. KopooS Consulting Ind., France
  3. ODYSSEUS Space Co. Ltd., Taiwan
  4. Observatoire de Paris PSL, IMCCE, France




CubeSat, GNC, AOCS, Propulsion, Interplanetary, Small Body, Trajectory Correction Maneuvers


Space propulsion for CubeSats is one of the big steps forward in the area of nanosatellites. Not only it answers to many current scientific and industrial needs, it also enables new mission concepts such as deep-space missions, rendez-vous and docking, formation flying… BIRDY-T is a technology under development for autonomous Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) for space science and exploration with CubeSats. Among the various crucial aspects, such as auto-navigation, space propulsion is essential.

This work explores the aspects related to the integration of one or a couple of propulsion systems to perform the necessary control during the mission. Possible propulsion systems are presented and their performances are compared. First, we investigate the feasibility of Trajectory Correction Maneuvers (TCM) around a small body. Different TCM will have different system impacts and may not be feasible with an autonomous GNC and existing small propulsion systems. Depending on the propulsion system considered, those TCM may not be considered instantaneous, hence forcing us to think in terms of propulsive strategies. Eventually, simulations of the attitude control during several crucial phases of an interplanetary mission are performed, such as active attitude control while a main propulsion system is fired for orbit control. Indeed, misalignments of the main propulsion system with the satellite center of gravity during a maneuver may cause a tumble finally leading to unwanted orbit modifications. A comparison with classic attitude actuators is possible, showing the promising results of attitude control propulsion systems for CubeSat missions even in LEO.


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