Space Bus for Educational Satellite Projects
The term space bus is just the conventional name for the main structural component system of a spacecraft. A space bus is a specialized platform hosting satellite equipment, such as electronics, cameras, etc. If you were wondering what are the uses of a space bus when this impressive piece of engineering is not in space, know that a spacecraft bus can also be used for educational satellite projects.
Being the engineering kit for spacecraft assembly in specific formats, a space bus for education is used to display all the basic subsystems that build it. By working with a bus at ground level, students and engineers learn how it was developed and can even simulate cargo and payload space transports or learn ground control with a satellite in orbit. Its this case, payload and cargo are not part of the space bus. These are separate mission items that belong to the client.
Is There Only One Space Bus Model?
There are many types of space buses. Today, space technology is no longer something only NASA and other governmental agencies are working on. Anyone who can afford to invest in high-end building materials and the human resource for developing space technology can run a space business. And there are many other space enthusiasts who sent cargo into space. Most of them have used space buses designed, developed, and tested in-house.
Some of the space bus models are Alphabus from Thales Alenia and EADS Astrium, France, the I-6K from ISRO, with its first flight in 2018, Dragonfly from Dragonfly Aerospace and the Eurostar from Airbus, which had its first flight in 2019. These space buses are all operational and commercially available. Therefore, these buses can’t be used for educational purposes until their status changes to retired. After retiring, a satellite bus becomes a real asset for lab work and classroom demonstrations. It can be displayed in courses on finite elements or structural dynamics. Depending on the bus model and missions accomplished, they can be used to gain more knowledge in the area of systems engineering too.
Which Are the Most Interesting Educational Satellite Programmes?
A lesson from NASA and the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) teaches students about satellites, their function, power systems, and bus construction. Lesson participants must design, construct, test, and refine a model satellite by using engineering design processes they are knowledgeable of. This multi-day task also involves vibration testing of the satellite, which must satisfy a set of instrumentation requirements and resilience limits. An engineering student can’t become a satellite engineer without closely analyzing and testing satellite systems like buses, ground satellites, polar satellites, LEOs, GEOs, GPSs, and others. To begin with, students have to be able to identify all the main parts that make a satellite.
The Stanford University OPAL Program in 2000 involved launching and deploying picosatellites to show that the new space exploration era is not only viable but also practical. The Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, California, manufactured two picosatellites out of 6 for the project. The picosatellites were launched from Stanford University’s OPAL microsatellite; they were used to test MEMS RF switches in space. Communication with the ground and other satellites was established using wireless radios on low power. Picosatellites weigh less than 1 kilo are 4x3x1 inches in dimensions. They were created for DARPA to function as testing platforms. What’s even more interesting about them is that they were produced and ready for launch very quickly, in about eight months.
The Kyushu Institute of Technology’s educational satellite program BIRDS has been running since 2015. It encompasses more space educational projects using 1U CubeSats. This technology is used for building space traveling capacities for nations that don’t conduct space programs yet. BIRDS-1 is the program’s first generation of satellites and was launched in orbit in 2017. BIRDS-2 followed it in 2018, and BIRDS-3 was launched on the ISS back in 2019. BIRDS project participants start as students and have no engineering experience whatsoever. Until getting their master’s degree, in only two years, they must design, construct, and operate a satellite. Each year, there’s a new project like this, and every time the students must make their satellite design changes that accommodate the objectives of a new mission.
A space bus or any other piece of engineering and technology adds incommensurable value to any program or project because it helps students not only to learn more about how they are designed and built but also about how they can be operated. Besides, these buses are also necessary for conducting ground tests, without which cargo transportation would not even be possible.