The QBITO CubeSat
The QB50 mission consists of a network of 50 CubeSats in a ‘string-of-pearls’ configuration. The CubeSats will be launched together by a Cyclone-4 rocket from Alcantara, Brazil. The mission starting point will be a circular orbit at 380 km altitude and 98° inclination, and due to atmospheric drag, the CubeSat orbits will decay until the spacecraft burn in the atmosphere. The separation distance between CubeSats will increase during the mission, eventually leading to a non-uniform distribution of satellites all the way around the Earth. The expected lifetime of individual CubeSats is between two and three months, depending on the launch schedule and sun activity.
The main objective of QBITO is to operate its primary payload: the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS). This instrument -supplied by the VKI- aims to study the properties of the lower thermosphere.
Together with the INMS, QBITO will carry three additional payloads:
- An experiment to assess the performance of the n-Octadecane as a Phase Change Material (PCM). Developed in collaboration with the University of Liège.
- A Medium Wave Infrared Detector, developed by the Spanish company New Infrared Technologies, which aims at testing this kind of detectors. The manufacturing process is based on the Vapour Phase Deposited PbSe technology in space conditions.
- An experimental software for an attitude determination and control system based on fuzzy control theory. The purpose is to test the suitability of this kind of algorithms for spacecraft attitude control applications.
The most distinguishing features of the QBITO platform are the new in-house developments present in the design. These include the structure, the Electrical Power Subsystem, the Communications subsystem and a novel antenna deployment mechanism. Those elements are complemented with Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) units in order to reach a robust, yet innovative, architecture.
The CubeSat is currently being manufactured and tested by QBITO team which includes UPM staff, professors and students.