Attitude Determination and Control System
The on-board experiment will focus on the fine attitude control of a small satellite relying solely on the interaction of 3 axis magnetorque coils with the earth's magnetic field. If it's as successful as we believe it will be, it opens the way to solar panel wings and directional (gain) antennas on future Microsats in LEO.
To provide the necessary attitude information we plan to fly an horizon sensor, a magnetometer, two sun sensors, a suitable GPS receiver and last - but not least - a small colour camera. The latter will provide timed images of the horizon to confirm that our math is correct and the satellite is indeed pointing where we calculate it is. ( "A picture is worth a thousand words!" Remember the "YACE" camera on AO-40 and key part it played in the recovery effort?)
Having established the motion rates and obtained an accurate 'time mark', the satellite will be commanded to carry out a series of pre-programmed 3 axis magnetic pulses which will be timed to provide maximum rotational torque from the Earths Geomagnetic field at that moment of time and at that point on the satellites orbit.
Mathematically proven - it will work. How well it will work will depend on how smart we can get with the controlling software! That is being worked on now. The appropriate algorithms are all in place and - as far as we can in an Earthbound environment - we have proven both the concept and the systems that will be needed to implement it. Many indeed, are in flight units ready to go.
Eventually it is planned to transfer the control to the satellite and leave it to the on-board computer to make the necessary adjustments.
Modified 17 Dec 2010