System Design for CubeSat as A Secondary Payload For Deep-Space Mission – A Case Study For ESA Asteroid Impact Mission

Zhou Hao, Qin Xu, Peter Roberts, Stephen Hobbs, Jennifer Kingston

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


    CubeSats became very popular in the past decade for space missions. This is because CubeSats can realise similar or part of the functionalities compared to regular size satellites, with much lower cost and easier accessibility for universities and research institutes. However, all present CubeSat missions have been limited to operation in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Recently, space industry has drawn attention to use CubeSats for higher orbit or deep-space missions. A widely discussed approach is to use CubeSats as secondary payload or piggyback ride with the primary higher-orbit or deep-space spacecraft. The most challenging phase of deep-space CubeSat mission is orbit insertion, an applicable concept has been discussed is to launch CubeSats as a secondary payload or piggyback satellite with the primary spacecraft in the same launch vehicle. ESA recently launched an open bid offer on its asteroid probe – Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) in 2020. Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) has room for a total of six CubeSat units but likely two three-unit CubeSats will be carried in order to achieve valuable scientific objectives. European Space Agency (ESA) aims to use these CubeSats to test intercommunication systems and carry sensors to boost and complement Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM)’s own scientific return. This paper identified the problems and challenges for designing a CubeSat for Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), including design requirement analysis, Attitude and Orbital Control Systems (AOCS) design, interplanetary space environment influence, telecommunication device design and hardware selection. The research focuses on the current available or near future technology of each subsystems and how to apply these technology to resolve above deep-space CubeSat operation problems. Furthermore, from the research and current industry recognition about deep-space CubeSat missions, this paper also presents a comprehensive system design paradigm for any similar deep-space CubeSat mission. The research uses European Space Agency (ESA) Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) CubeSats as a study case but the conclusion can provide reference and design paradigms for future interplanetary CubeSat missions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publication66th International Astronautical Congress
    PublisherInternational Astronautical Federation, IAF
    Number of pages9
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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