Compact and robust connectors are essential in Gauss CubeSat deployment tasks

Launching satellites and putting them into orbit involves huge financial expenditures, which discourages many small organizations from considering time for projects in the space field. However, using the same rocket to launch multiple satellites (multiple stars with one arrow), or commonly known as “carpooling”, now makes it more convenient and affordable for academic institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises to send their equipment into space. This means that the space field is no longer the exclusive territory of a few large space players.

Author: Eneko Ansoleaga, Business Development Manager, Harwin Corporation (Southern Europe)

Launching satellites and putting them into orbit involves huge financial expenditures, which discourages many small organizations from considering time for projects in the space field. However, using the same rocket to launch multiple satellites (multiple stars with one arrow), or commonly known as “carpooling”, now makes it more convenient and affordable for academic institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises to send their equipment into space. This means that the space field is no longer the exclusive territory of a few large space players.

Recently, a company has raised multiple stars with one arrow to a whole new level. This is GAUSS Srl, the Group of Astrodynamics for the Use of Space Systems. Headquartered in Italy, GAUSS is spun off from the School of Aerospace Engineering of Sapienza University of Rome, and has been involved in the development of microsatellites since the 1990s. Since 2012, it has been a private company and used the proprietary technology originally developed at the university to serve the aerospace industry. At the same time, the company has also made great progress in its own engineering technology. In addition to the design and production of microsatellite hardware, it also undertakes analysis of low earth orbit (LEO), geostationary orbit (GEO) and interstellar missions, and is also engaged in various ground-based monitoring services.

Compact and robust connectors are essential in Gauss CubeSat deployment tasks
Figure 1: The GAUSS octagonal UNISAT-7 pico/nano satellite deployment platform on the Soyuz-Freget launch vehicle at Baikonur Cosmodrome.

An important goal of GAUSS is to reduce the financial investment required by academic institutions and small businesses to participate in related space projects. This prompted the company to launch the game-changing UNISAT platform in 2013, which represents the advanced level of the industry because it allows Third-party satellites are released in orbit. In the following years, several different UNISAT devices were put into orbit, and each device was subsequently deployed with a series of CubeSats and PocketQubes, which can be used for education and scientific research.

This kind of “carpooling” launch makes it more convenient and affordable to send equipment into space, and can achieve a cost saving of 30-35% compared with other methods. In addition to a more attractive price, academic institutions do not have to worry about preparing all the documents for the launch agency or purchasing their own deployment mechanism, because GAUSS can help handle all of this. They can also better control the launch time, direction, and tracking of their pico/nano-satellite after release, so that each piece of equipment can be accurately and safely deployed to the sun-synchronous orbit (SSO).

Through the latest UNISAT project UNISAT-7, the GAUSS engineering team hopes to take this concept to a new level. They need to increase the payload capacity in order to transport more Pi/Na satellites into space and make more space for additional experimental instruments. The core of UNISAT-7’s success is to keep its structure as simple as possible, as this will increase the payload.

The UNISAT-7 spacecraft must be very compact, no more than 50 mm x 50 mm x 50 mm in size. Its total launch mass is 32 kg, of which 15 kg is the payload that needs to be taken to space. Therefore, reducing the weight of all components of the hardware is crucial. In order to achieve this goal, UNISAT-7 is made of avionics grade aluminum honeycomb frame and carbon fiber skin. Then externally add solar cells installed on the cabin to provide all the necessary power.

In order to shorten the development time, GAUSS engineers use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components as much as possible, supplemented by open-source hardware that has been specially modified and can cope with the challenging space environment.

Since UNISAT-7 needs to operate for approximately 3 to 5 years, all components must be able to support long hours of work. Therefore, continuous reliability is essential. Similarly, these components must exhibit strong toughness against shocks and vibrations generated during launch. In addition to being able to cope with the payload requirements mentioned above, they must also be compact and lightweight because the available space for them is very limited.

Compact and robust connectors are essential in Gauss CubeSat deployment tasks
Figure 2: One of the electronic circuit towers of the UNISAT-7 engineering model, designed with Harwin connectors.

When selecting a connector that needs to be integrated into UNISAT-7, all the attribute requirements discussed above need to be met. After considering products from different suppliers, GAUSS engineers clearly determined that Harwin’s Datamate series best met their interconnection requirements. These high-reliability (Hi-Rel) connectors can be used for data and power transmission. They are integrated into the radio communication module, on-board computer (OBC), power regulation and distribution unit (PCDU), electronic power supply system ( EPS), cabin door structure and other design.

Harwin’s Datamate and Datamate Mix-Tek connectors are very suitable for use in space applications and have a long and good reputation in this field. Due to the small footprint, these 2 mm pitch components only take up a small amount of board space. These connectors have undergone 20G vibration and 100G shock tests and can cope with the extreme conditions encountered during launch. 4-finger Beryllium Copper contacts can always maintain the connection with the corresponding mating surface. The standard Datamate connector contacts have a rated current of 3A, while the Datamate Mix-Tek contacts can provide up to 40A. They can also withstand temperatures up to 125°C and have low outgassing characteristics, which are very beneficial for space applications. In addition, a variety of locking mechanisms can be provided to ensure continuous interconnection.

Compact and robust connectors are essential in Gauss CubeSat deployment tasks
Figure 3: Cabin electronics of UNISAT-7 with GAUSS Breakout Board 1 (BOB-1), connected to the satellite subsystem through Harwin connectors.

GAUSS UNISAT-7 Engineering Director Riccardo Di Roberto explained: “In terms of cost and logistics, for launch missions with limited resources and budget, our UNISAT platform has real advantages over traditional launch methods. To ensure mission success, we need Obtain solid, high-performance technology. After considering many different possibilities, it is clear that Harwin Datamate connectors solve many of the problems we face. These components not only provide us with a reliable connection, but also can deal with all the involved No compromise conditions. Therefore, Harwin Datamate connectors are used in almost all UNISAT-7 subsystems.”

Riccardo Di Roberto added: “While investigating possible options, we managed to obtain a lot of useful information from the Harwin website, which helped us find the most suitable option for specific requirements. After that, the samples we requested were delivered quickly. This allowed us to start prototyping work immediately. As the development work progressed, we were also able to obtain very useful technical advice from Harwin’s technical department.”

Compact and robust connectors are essential in Gauss CubeSat deployment tasks
Figure 4: UNISAT-7 space selfie.

UNISAT-7 was launched from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan via Russia’s Soyuz-2-1a on March 22, 2021. After entering the orbit, the two CubeSats and three PocketQubes (from 1/3U to 1U and 1P to 6P) it carried were successfully deployed and successfully received by their respective owners. These devices are now performing a variety of different scientific tasks, including multispectral radiation and radio frequency analysis, and verification of electronic and photovoltaic devices in space. In addition to being used as an on-orbit Pi/Nano satellite deployment system, UNISAT-7 will also be used for space debris research and field testing.

GAUSS is currently working on the preliminary work of UNISAT-8 and is also committed to developing hardware for several upcoming interstellar missions. The GAUSS team believes that these projects will give them the opportunity to work with Harwin again soon.

Author: Eneko Ansoleaga, Business Development Manager, Harwin Corporation (Southern Europe)

Launching satellites and putting them into orbit involves huge financial expenditures, which discourages many small organizations from considering time for projects in the space field. However, using the same rocket to launch multiple satellites (multiple stars with one arrow), or commonly known as “carpooling”, now makes it more convenient and affordable for academic institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises to send their equipment into space. This means that the space field is no longer the exclusive territory of a few large space players.

Recently, a company has raised multiple stars with one arrow to a whole new level. This is GAUSS Srl, the Group of Astrodynamics for the Use of Space Systems. Headquartered in Italy, GAUSS is spun off from the School of Aerospace Engineering of Sapienza University of Rome, and has been involved in the development of microsatellites since the 1990s. Since 2012, it has been a private company and used the proprietary technology originally developed at the university to serve the aerospace industry. At the same time, the company has also made great progress in its own engineering technology. In addition to the design and production of microsatellite hardware, it also undertakes analysis of low earth orbit (LEO), geostationary orbit (GEO) and interstellar missions, and is also engaged in various ground-based monitoring services.

Compact and robust connectors are essential in Gauss CubeSat deployment tasks
Figure 1: The GAUSS octagonal UNISAT-7 pico/nano satellite deployment platform on the Soyuz-Freget launch vehicle at Baikonur Cosmodrome.

An important goal of GAUSS is to reduce the financial investment required by academic institutions and small businesses to participate in related space projects. This prompted the company to launch the game-changing UNISAT platform in 2013, which represents the advanced level of the industry because it allows Third-party satellites are released in orbit. In the following years, several different UNISAT devices were put into orbit, and each device was subsequently deployed with a series of CubeSats and PocketQubes, which can be used for education and scientific research.

This kind of “carpooling” launch makes it more convenient and affordable to send equipment into space, and can achieve a cost saving of 30-35% compared with other methods. In addition to a more attractive price, academic institutions do not have to worry about preparing all the documents for the launch agency or purchasing their own deployment mechanism, because GAUSS can help handle all of this. They can also better control the launch time, direction, and tracking of their pico/nano-satellite after release, so that each piece of equipment can be accurately and safely deployed to the sun-synchronous orbit (SSO).

Through the latest UNISAT project UNISAT-7, the GAUSS engineering team hopes to take this concept to a new level. They need to increase the payload capacity in order to transport more Pi/Na satellites into space and make more space for additional experimental instruments. The core of UNISAT-7’s success is to keep its structure as simple as possible, as this will increase the payload.

The UNISAT-7 spacecraft must be very compact, no more than 50 mm x 50 mm x 50 mm in size. Its total launch mass is 32 kg, of which 15 kg is the payload that needs to be taken to space. Therefore, reducing the weight of all components of the hardware is crucial. To achieve this goal, UNISAT-7 is made of avionics grade aluminum honeycomb frame and carbon fiber skin. Then externally add solar cells installed on the cabin to provide all the necessary power.

In order to shorten the development time, GAUSS engineers use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components as much as possible, supplemented by open-source hardware that has been specially modified and can cope with the challenging space environment.

Since UNISAT-7 needs to run for about 3 to 5 years, all components must be able to support long hours of work. Therefore, continued reliability is essential. Similarly, these components must exhibit strong toughness against shocks and vibrations generated during launch. In addition to being able to cope with the payload requirements mentioned above, they must also be compact and lightweight because the available space for them is very limited.

Compact and robust connectors are essential in Gauss CubeSat deployment tasks
Figure 2: One of the electronic circuit towers of the UNISAT-7 engineering model, designed with Harwin connectors.

When selecting a connector that needs to be integrated into UNISAT-7, all the attribute requirements discussed above need to be met. After considering products from different suppliers, GAUSS engineers clearly determined that Harwin’s Datamate series best met their interconnection requirements. These high-reliability (Hi-Rel) connectors can be used for data and power transmission. They are integrated into the radio communication module, on-board computer (OBC), power regulation and distribution unit (PCDU), electronic power supply system ( EPS), cabin door structure design.

Harwin’s Datamate and Datamate Mix-Tek connectors are very suitable for use in space applications and have a long and good reputation in this field. Due to the small footprint, these 2 mm pitch components only take up a small amount of board space. These connectors have undergone 20G vibration and 100G shock tests and can cope with the extreme conditions encountered during launch. 4-finger Beryllium Copper contacts can always maintain the connection with the corresponding mating surface. The standard Datamate connector contacts have a rated current of 3A, while the Datamate Mix-Tek contacts can provide up to 40A. They can also withstand temperatures up to 125°C and have low outgassing characteristics, which are very beneficial for space applications. In addition, a variety of locking mechanisms can be provided to ensure continuous interconnection.

Compact and robust connectors are essential in Gauss CubeSat deployment tasks
Figure 3: Cabin electronics of UNISAT-7 with GAUSS Breakout Board 1 (BOB-1), connected to the satellite subsystem through Harwin connectors.

GAUSS UNISAT-7 Engineering Director Riccardo Di Roberto explained: “In terms of cost and logistics, for launch missions with limited resources and budget, our UNISAT platform has real advantages over traditional launch methods. To ensure mission success, we need Obtain solid high-performance technology. After considering many different possibilities, it is clear that Harwin Datamate connectors solve many of the problems we face. These components not only provide us with a reliable connection, but also deal with all the involved No compromises. Therefore, Harwin Datamate connectors are used in almost all UNISAT-7 subsystems.”

Riccardo Di Roberto added: “While investigating possible options, we managed to obtain a lot of useful information from the Harwin website, which helped us find the most suitable option for specific requirements. After that, the samples we requested were delivered quickly. This allowed us to start prototyping work immediately. As the development work progressed, we were also able to obtain very useful technical advice from Harwin’s technical department.”

Compact and robust connectors are essential in Gauss CubeSat deployment tasks
Figure 4: UNISAT-7 space selfie.

UNISAT-7 was launched from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan via Russian Soyuz-2-1a on March 22, 2021. After entering the orbit, the two CubeSats and three PocketQubes (size from 1/3U to 1U and 1P to 6P) it carried were successfully deployed and successfully received by their respective owners. These devices are now performing a variety of different scientific tasks, including multispectral radiation and radio frequency analysis, and verification of electronic and photovoltaic devices in space. In addition to being used as an on-orbit Pi/Nano satellite deployment system, UNISAT-7 will also be used for space debris research and field testing.

GAUSS is currently working on the preliminary work of UNISAT-8 and is also committed to developing hardware for several upcoming interstellar missions. The GAUSS team believes that these projects will give them the opportunity to work with Harwin again soon.

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