The UWE-4 pico-satellite program is the next step in Cubesat development. It is the first in the UWE series of pico-satellites to incorporate a propulsion system. The ability to change the orbital parameters in a controlled way represents a significant increase in capabilities, and will allow the spacecraft to perform complicated missions including formation flying.
The satellite is based on a modular bus developed in Wuerzburg University that includes a complete attitude determination system, with a comprehensive suite of sensors: sun sensors, magnetometers and rate gyroscopes. The basic bus also includes magneto-torquers for simple attitude control. On this platform an electric propulsion system is integrated. This system is based on vacuum arc thrusters and will allow both orbit and fine attitude control.
The project is a collaborative effort together with a team from a different university, responsible for the vacuum arc thruster and PPU design. Electric propulsion research will be conducted in our Wuerzburg University facility as well as part of the effort to integrate and test the propulsion system. As a technological demonstration mission, research on the properties of these plasma thrusters in space is an important goal as well.
The project major challenges are the integration of the propulsion system, including both thrusters and power processing unit (PPU) on board, and the development of suitable attitude and orbit control algorithms. Interested students are welocmed to join the effort in all of these aspects of the project.
The UWE-4 program is supported by the Bavarian Space Technology Program in the project "Innovative propulsion system for satellite formations based on vacuum arc thrusters".