PAN Design

A novel 3D-printed propulsion system

  • To facilitate rendezvous and docking operations, the PAN nanosatellites require a propulsion system that can actuate the spacecraft along three axes. This is accomplished with a tetrahedral orientation of four thruster nozzles. Both the nozzles and the tank are manufactured using stereolithography, a type of additive manufacturing, allowing the system to be both modular and adaptable to many different types of CubeSat missions which might require different sizes and amounts of propellant, or different nozzle orientations. This cold-gas system is also able to achieve high efficiency by using a commercially available refrigerant, R236FA as its propellant.

A modular, cost-effective attitude control system

  • The PAN nanosatellites will each have an attitude determination and control system (ADCS) designed and manufactured in-house. By using commercially available DC motors as reaction wheels, and sun sensors that use phototransistors, the CU Attitude Control and Estimation (ACE) system is able to provide attitude control with a high degree of precision, while eliminating the cost barrier which has prevented other CubeSats from employing high-performance attitude control.

A novel magnetic docking system

  • The passive magnetic docking system which students at Cornell have developed for the PAN nanosatellites will allow docking operations to be carried out without the large and complex systems normally used in this application. For the majority of the mission, the magnets will be aligned so that their magnetic fields cancel out, so as not to disrupt normal mission operations, but once the magnets are rotated during the docking phase, they will guide the two spacecraft in to docking. The system is robust to large errors in relative placement and orientation of the two spacecraft, making it an attractive option for future CubeSat missions.

Lightweight and inexpensive precision relative navigation

  • The PAN nanosatellites use carrier-wave differential (CD) GPS to conduct rendezvous and docking operations. This method allows position measurement accurate to within several centimeters, and the Piksi radios on board communicate with one another to share this position between the two spacecraft.

Robust control law for relative navigation

  • Developed by Matt Walsh, an MAE PhD student at Cornell, PAN’s guidance, navigation and control (GNC) software is a robust solution to the problem of autonomous spacecraft navigation. He recently presented his results at the 2018 AIAA SciTech conference on aerospace.

Team Lead: Stewart Aslan (saa243)