Design & SimulationMay 18, 2021

Multiscale Simulation of CubeSats

Sending small satellites, also known as CubeSats, to space is not a…
Avatar Hassan Chreim

Sending small satellites, also known as CubeSats, to space is not a new idea, quite the opposite. The first small satellite baptized “Oscar 1” was deployed in space back in 1961. Its size did not exceed 30*25*12 cm3 , and it did not weight more than 10 Kg. The satellite was equipped with a monopole antenna operating at 145 MHz and was dedicated to test radio reception from space.

CubeSats are usually deployed in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and they are subject to the drag force that is caused by the gravity of the earth. For this reason, they are composed of low mass cube units (from 1 up to 27, figure 1 shows an example of 3 units) where each has a volume of 10 cm3 and weighs not more than 1.33 Kg. These structures host different types of antennas used for several telecommunication applications (GPS, Satellite to Satellite communication, Space to earth communication,) as well as many pieces of electronic equipment. Naturally the weight of these systems has to respect the weight specifications, especially the biggest embedded system which is the reflector dish, used to assure the communication with earth. The best solution for this matter is the usage of foldable materials, the most used ones being composed of a thin metallic mesh embedded within a CFRP layer.

Hassan Chreim, Industry Process Consult, will be presenting a webinar on SIMULIA’s Electromagnetic Solution in order to conduct a complete workflow that answers the question of how to design these antennas. “Multiscale Simulation of CubeSats” will be taking place on Wednesday, June 2nd from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM EST. It will also be available on-demand after the live event has concluded.

The first topic that will be discussed is how to design the material that composes the reflector dish. This material is Gold-Plated Molybdenum wire mesh embedded in a thin layer of CFRP. Designing and simulating the real geometry of this wire mesh could be complicated when considering the full size of the reflector dish. However, the usage of the thin panel compact model of SIMULIA CST Studio Suite can be an excellent choice in order to avoid meshing the 3D geometry of the material.

The reflector antenna system will then be broken down into its two sub parts (feeder and reflector). The considered feeder will be a steerable array of horn antennas, allowing illumination of different areas of the reflector and guaranteeing coverage of different areas of the Earth. Here again, SIMULIA CST Studio Suite’s capabilities to design and optimize antenna arrays will be shown in details.

Since the antenna system will not be orbiting alone in space, one has to study the antenna performance while installed on the satellite platform. Another topic that will be discussed during the webinar is usage of the hybrid solver of SIMULIA CST Suite. The hybrid solver is the best solution to consider the multiscale scenario, starting from the unit cell of the feeder to the complete system installed on the satellite.

The previously discussed antenna system will be co-hosted with other electronic equipment on the same satellite platform. The webinar will finally discuss the risk of interference between both systems as we will see how to precisely quantify the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) issues by predicting the values of the Electromagnetic field that will be coupled on the equipment and evaluating the risk of malfunction of the embedded electronics.

In conclusion, SIMULIA CST Studio Suite could help with the design and the optimization of the full communication system, predicting its performance while installed on the CubeSat but also the assessment of the interference risk between the communication system and the electronic equipment that are also hosted on the CubeSat. Learn more and register for the webinar here.

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