Honors Theses


David H. Myszka, Ph.D., Andrew P. Murray, Ph.D.


Mechanical, Aerospace and Renewable and Clean Energy Engineering

Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Thesis


CubeSats are used in space research to explore new technologies and detect data to gain a better understanding of various areas of research and subjects affecting human life. CubeSats rely on a solar array to generate energy from the sun and perform their various functions in space. This research studies the energy capturing potential of various solar array configurations and positioning devices for CubeSats. The location and orientation of a CubeSat is simulated with MATLAB for both geo-synchronous and sunsynchronous orbits. Two degree-of-freedom (DoF) positioning devices are sufficient to continuously adjust the photovoltaic array to face towards the sun. Lower DoF systems are desired as they are less complex. Solar panel configurations included in the study are those affixed to the CubeSat sides, deployed into alternative stationary positions, and actuated with one DoF, and with two-DoF actuation with mechanical limitations. The energy captured over an annual cycle is determined for each case. For systems with fewer than two DoF, optimal position settings are determined for the design parameters. The results reveal that implementing one or more actuators to position the CubeSat’s array is beneficial for energy generation. While the two DoF positioner is the most capable in both types of orbits, the different one DoF positioners are comparable in energy generating potential. A one DoF positioner would be more desirable if factors such as energy consumption, complexity, and weight were incorporated into the analysis.

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This item is protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code) and may only be used for noncommercial, educational, and scholarly purposes


Undergraduate research


Aerospace Engineering | Engineering | Mechanical Engineering