A Device to Control Satellites

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Mexican researchers innovate with simple and effective space technology.

Once a satellite is sent to outer space the Earth’s orbit will keep it rotating around the planet, and preventing it from drifting away into the void. However, though satellites will move along the orbit they were left at, they’ll spin freely in all directions.

Along with his staff, Jorge Prado Molina, researcher of the Geospatial Analysis Lab at the Geography Institute of Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), has created a series of devices and algorithms that will allow to control and change the satellites’ orientation. The best part is that all these orders can be executed from Earth, while the satellite is following its perpetual movement around the planet.

This project consists of the following:

Device Control Satellites

a) Prototypes that create an in-lab simulation of the friction-free outer space environment

b) Sensors placed on the satellite’s surface to determine its position

c) Rotary actuators that change the satellite’s orientation

d) Controllers that allow the information exchange between the satellite and a terrestrial tracking station

The Mexican researcher expressed that even though Mexico is not launching rockets into space, he’s proud of the innovation Mexico is achieving regarding smaller devices: “There’s an opportunity for us in the development of small satellites from one to ten kilograms; that’s an area in which we can compete internationally”.

Jorge Prado, who has been involved in the development of aerospace equipment since 1985, knows that even though these devices are built to fit the mentioned nano-satellites, they can also be made in different sizes, but the trends are leading technology to a size reduction, which would allow lowering the costs of sending equipment to orbit.

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