Two aerospace engineering graduate students at the University of Missouri-Rolla took first place in the Student Scholarship Competition session at the 21st annual Conference on Small Satellites in Logan, Utah.
The paper written by Mike Dancer of Poplar Bluff, Mo., and Jason Searcy of Rolla, Mo., competed against five other entries from Washington University in St. Louis, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Santa Clara University and Utah State University.
“I was surprised by the result as the competition was very tight,” says Dancer. “I feel honored that the judges felt our paper was the best.”
Their paper, “Orbit/Attitude Determination and Control for the UMR SAT Mission,” covered the system they developed for the UMR SAT mission. The UMR SAT team has spent the last two years designing and constructing a pair of satellites, MR SAT (Missouri-Rolla Satellite) and MRS SAT (Missouri-Rolla Second Satellite). At the beginning of the proposed mission, the two satellites are docked and only separate once in space. The pair are designed to separate and autonomously maintain a specified flight formation. Dancer, Searcy and Dr. Henry Pernicka, associate professor of aerospace engineering and their faculty advisor, plan to submit the results of their research to two journals for publications.
The control system determines the satellite’s location, direction and orientation using a GPS receiver and magnetometer. From that information, it determines how much power to send to the magnetic torque coils and which thrusters are required to fire, explains Dancer. The thrusters and magnetic torque coils change the orientation of the satellite and maintain a satellite separation distance of approximately 50 meters. The system is based on a technique developed by Dr. S.N. Balakrishnan, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UMR.