Development of a Self-Orienting CubeSat Solar Array
The sponsor of this conceptual design project was the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) at WrightPatterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. AFIT was striving to give CubeSats more capability to conduct research, reconnaissance, and other functions. One of the major barriers for AFIT to overcome to give CubeSats more capability was the ability of the CubeSat to generate usable power while in orbit. All of AFIT’s CubeSats generated the power needed while in orbit with solar panels that are rigidly mounted to the outside of the craft. AFIT believes that a new design for the solar array used on the CubeSat will generate the power needed to increase their capabilities. The design that was deemed the most appropriate at the conclusion of this stage of the project was a design for a two degree of freedom mechanism that is attached to the solar panels to better orient them towards the sun. There are three aspects of the new design coming from this project that will make it unique. 1) Draws no direct power from the CubeSat Energy Storage to perform the movement. 2) Takes up less space on the CubeSat than competing designs. 3) Takes up less of the weight limit of the CubeSat than competing designs. The new Solar Array design should be able to orient four times more solar panel area towards the sun, as compared to the current AFIT design. There will be between 3 to 4 times more energy generation from the new design of solar array as a result, and an increase in the capabilities of the CubeSats.