31. Mar. 2022
Exactly 10 x 10 x 10 centimetres – that's how small and symmetrical the BDSAT nanosatellite is, which will be carried into orbit by a Falcon 9 rocket from the US company SpaceX on Friday 1st April 2022. It carries technologies that will be tested in space: special pressure sensors or an alternative solar power system, the so-called supercapacitor bank. If the technology proves successful, it could replace or supplement conventional satellite power banks in the future. Specialists from BD SENSORS, Spacemanic and scientists from Brno University of Technology collaborated on BDSAT.
"We worked with the BUT on the design of a pressure sensor for space applications, so it was clear that we wanted to test it in real conditions in space. Work on BDSAT started in 2019, but we have been working with BUT for many years," says project manager Tomáš Valer from BD SENSORS, a company specialising in pressure gauge research and development. But this is not the only technology that the nanosatellite, or so-called cubesat, wants to test in space.
"The second part of the technology experiment is to test the use of supercapacitors as an innovative solution for storing electrical energy in satellites. In the future, a bank of supercapacitors may replace conventional battery power systems. As the satellite orbits, it is turned towards the Sun for part of the flight and charged by solar panels. During the shadow flight, energy from this source will be consumed," explains Radimír Vrba, director of the CEITEC BUT science centre, which is involved in the BDSAT project.
The construction of the BDSAT nanosatellite took place in the clean rooms of BD SENSORS. "Spacemanic company then participated in the overall construction of the nanosatellite: from the supply of the on-board computer to the primary power supply to the communication antennas. The final insertion into the ejection part of the satellite was done thanks to colleagues from Exolaunch in Germany," adds BD SENSORS Technical Director Martin Šimoník.
The ground station, which will receive the signal from the satellite and control it remotely, is located in the Laboratory of Experimental Satellites at the Institute of Radioelectronics of the FEEC BUT. We currently have two other satellites in space. In the last year, we also managed the Czech-Slovak-Hungarian-Japanese satellite GRBAlpha," describes Miroslav Kasal, a specialist in radio communication, lists the team's experience. It is from this laboratory that the first connection with the cubesat will be established. "Within half an hour of launch, the nanosatellite will be in orbit, but it may take several hours to start transmitting a signal and establish a connection. It also takes another couple of weeks to verify that all systems are working properly and delivering data," Kasal adds.
The Falcon 9 rocket will carry dozens of cubesats into space, but only BDSAT will be connected to Brno University of Technology. "We will continuously evaluate the data; for example, we will test up to ten different scenarios for the supercapacitor bank to thoroughly verify its function. We are planning a lifetime of at least two years. The longer the nanosatellite keeps transmitting, the better, because the more valuable data we can get. But of course the device is affected by radiation in space, so we'll see how long the cubesat lasts. But there are nanosatellites that have been in space for more than five years and are still working," Valer points out. BD SENSORS will, among other things, supply sensors for the Gateway orbital station around the Moon. A number of BUT graduates work in this company from Buchlovice; indeed, the company's owner Karel Mareček is one of the first graduates of microelectronics at BUT.
More information about the BDSAT project, including a listing of services for radio amateurs from all over the world, can be found here: https://www.bdsat.cz/
Author: Radana Koudelová (edited by Craig Binding)