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Wednesday, February 3 • 09:40 - 10:00
Analytical Model for Low Earth Orbit Satellite Solar Power

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SmallSat power budgets and power management strategies constrain mission operations once in orbit. They depend on both the orbital dynamics of the spacecraft - such as eclipsing, precession and rotating attitude - and hardware constraints - such as battery capacity and solar cells. It is key to understand the impact of these parameters on power generation, storage and consumption throughout mission planning and execution. Uninformed decisions in the early design cycle will lead to unexpected consequences on power constraints later in the mission. One key area where SmallSat teams struggle is determining available solar power. As a result of limited resources, teams often rely on flawed estimates of the available power for their satellite.

In this presentation, we outline an analytical model for calculating the instantaneous and average available solar power for a satellite. By accounting for the effects of angle of solar incidence and eclipsing, for both stabilized and tumbling satellites, this model allows for fast, simple, calculations that agree with expensive simulation software. The model also surpasses most numerical simulation software, by providing the maximum and minimum solar power across all possible low Earth orbits for both tumbling and attitude stabilized satellites with solar cells facing arbitrary directions.

The benefits of this model result from using a geometric representation of orbits, rather than physics based model. This makes it possible to reduce the problem to a series of equations. We then expanded the model so it can handle orbit inputs in the form of beta angles, Keplerian elements, and two-line element sets. In all cases this model shows close agreement with STK. Furthermore, as a result of its simplicity, the model can quickly account for mission changes such as revised orbit parameters and mission requirements.

This model has already found applications in thermal modeling, development of a comprehensive simulation of power usage, design of an EPS board, and the development of power management software.

avatar for Carlos Lange

Carlos Lange

Associate Professor, University of Alberta, ISSET
Computational Fluid Dynamics, Planetary Atmospheres, CubeSats


John Grey

Power Team Lead, AlbertaSat

Wednesday February 3, 2016 09:40 - 10:00
Provence Room 45 The Esplanade, Toronto, ON M5E 1W2

Attendees (8)