What’s Next for Fox-1A?

APRIL 14, 2015 – Mission logos on the NPSCuL shipping container for the GRACE mission, including Fox-1A.

GRACE NPSCuL shipping container

APRIL 9, 2015 UPDATE – Today the NPS team completed both X and Y axis acceptance vibration tests on the NPSCuL with no issues. (Z axis vibe was completed April 8.)  Roll tests were conducted after each axis and no loose parts were heard. GRACE is now sealed up in the shipping container and ready for transport. Next stop: VAFB!

NPSCuL vibe testing complete

NPSCuL vibe testing complete

UPDATE – The P-PODs were delivered to Naval Postgraduate School this week and have been integrated in the NPSCuL.

GRACE mission P-PODs including Fox-1, at NPS for NPSCuL integration.

GRACE mission P-PODs including Fox-1, at NPS for NPSCuL integration.  Photo courtesy of Justin Foley, Cal Poly.

GRACE mission P-PODs in the NPSCuL

GRACE mission P-PODs in the NPSCuL  Photo courtesy of Justin Foley, Cal Poly.

The video linked below was provided to all of the GRACE mission CubeSat teams by Justin Foley of Cal Poly.

Justin says “A few years back we put together a video that outlines the process we go through to get CubeSats on the Atlas V. This video follows the payload we put on NROL-36, aka OUTSat, which launched from VAFB and carried 11 cubes. The process is very similar to what your satellites are going through now.”

You saw the photos of the P-POD integration in the Cal Poly clean room yesterday, which is where this video begins the story. The last two CubeSats were being integrated in their P-POD today (March 26). All of the P-PODs will then head up to the Naval Postgraduate School next week for integration in the NPSCuL and acceptance testing, and then be sent on to Vandenberg (cue video) –

(Thanks to Justin D. Foley for the YouTube video link.)

Fox-1 Goes to Cal Poly

Fox-1 is headed to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA for integration into the P-POD that will later be mounted in the NPSCuL* and on the launch vehicle.

While the NPSCuL may be coach class, Fox-1 gets to travel first class to San Luis Obispo with some express assistance from the friendly TSA at DFW Airport.  AMSAT Vice President – Engineering Jerry Buxton, N0JY, worked with the TSA and a supervisory officer will meet him at the security checkpoint Tuesday morning in order to provide safe passage and handling of Fox-1 through the TSA security checkpoint and inspection process.  ESD protection and gloves are required as well as gentle handling, so everything is in the box with Fox.  Fox-1 needs to be guaranteed a safe arrival at Cal Poly for integration.

Photos below show Fox-1 in her final steps for shipping, with the last set of solar panel covers added (thanks to all who contributed to the solar panels!) and packed in her own Pelican case for the ride.  An small entourage of support equipment is still required including a way to safely return the solar panel covers to Texas to later be delivered to their donors, so the bigger “all in one” case still goes as checked baggage.

Stay tuned for more news as Fox-1 undergoes integration on Wednesday, March 25!

*Please see http://tinyurl.com/lcmfndc for a pdf describing the NPSCuL

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Successful Fox-1 Battery Test

APIC Safety Lead for the GRACE mission and the LSP Range Safety required AMSAT Engineering to demonstrate the safety of the Sanyo KR-1400AE cells used in the Fox-1A satellite, in light of the cells having no UL listing nor available manufacturer documentation on the cell case pressure and venting pressure.

After a few weeks spent on planning, obtaining components, construction, and rehearsal (there are no “do-overs” once the circuit is closed!) a small team consisting of Bob Fitzpatrick KB5SQG, Shura Buxton KD5FCQ, and Jerry Buxton NØJY performed the test on Sunday afternoon, December 7, 2014.  The cell was subjected to a direct short circuit and the current, temperature, and physical behavior were observed, logged, and captured on video.  While the report to APIC is For Official Use Only, the video is not and so you are invited to view the raw footage (minus a couple of spots where audio has been muted for expletives or chatter unrelated to the test) on YouTube.

The test was successful, as it was demonstrated that the cell did not burst nor greatly deform, there was no fire or damage, and no liquid leakage.  There was quite a surprise, though!

The multimeter is reading mV DC across a .001 ohm current sense resistor, so the reading you see directly corresponds to current.  Temperature is in degrees Celsius.

And Murphy was of course present, as a natural part of anything involving amateur radio activities.  Fortunately, the stopwatch wound up almost exactly 10 seconds behind so translation of the readings was pretty simple!

Design The Next AMSAT Satellite!

At the 2014 AMSAT Space Symposium AMSAT Vice President – Engineering Jerry Buxton announced the plan for the next generation of AMSAT satellites. “The door is open for everyone, to submit their ideas. AMSAT Engineering has a long term strategy and this is the first step.”

The Engineering long term strategy includes the following goals

  • Advancement of amateur radio satellite technical and communications skills
  • Enhance international goodwill
  • Grow and sustain a skilled pool of amateur radio satellite engineers
  • Establish and maintain partnerships with educational institutions
  • Develop a means to use hardware common to all opportunities

With respect to the last goal Jerry said “Within the bounds of the type of satellite it takes to achieve any of the various orbit opportunities, let’s consider in those plans the possibility of developing a platform that can suit any and all orbits.  Perhaps a modular CubeSat, using a common bus as we did in Fox-1, which gives great flexibility in building and flying different sizes and configurations of CubeSats with simple common-design hardware changes.”

Submissions should be thorough and contain the following information.  The purpose of the proposal is not just in suggesting an idea; being an all-volunteer team AMSAT needs your help in carrying out the idea.

  • Design
  • Implementation – CubeSat platform
  • Estimated timeline
  • Cost – volunteer resources, commercial (COTS) units
  • Launch – how does it get to orbit
  • Strategy – how it fits into AMSAT’s Engineering long term strategy

As mentioned above the idea should be based on the CubeSat platform. This is the standard through which we will look for launches in the foreseeable future.

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