The AggieSat4 mission aimed to perform cross-linking communications, exchange data, link to GPS, and transmit data to the ground, partnered with BEVO-2 satellite.
AggieSat2, the 5-inch cube picosatellite built by undergraduate and graduate students of Texas A&M’s AggieSat Lab, was released into orbit on 30 July 2009. The picosatellite was deployed from STS-127 Space Shuttle Endeavour’s payload bay. It communicated with the AggieSat team at the ground control station for the first time later that evening.
AggieSat2 was one of two satellites deployed from Endeavour. The other satellite, Bevo-1, was built by students from the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in a joint multi-mission project with NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) called LoneStar.
AggieSat2 downlinked information about its position by using the on-board GPS (global positioning system), called DRAGON, developed by NASA Johnson Space Center. Information from the satellite was transmitted to a ground station set up on TAMU’s Riverside campus and collected by students in their control room in the AggieSat Lab. The information was sent to NASA, where it was compared with NASA’s predictions to check the new GPS for accuracy.
In the fall of 2010, the AggieSat team began work on a detailed design of the AggieSat4 (AGS4) spacecraft, a bigger 50 kilogram satellite, for the second mission of the LoneStar campaign. LoneStar Mission 2 consists of AGS4 and Bevo-2 from UT Austin. With Bevo-2 being a 3-U cubesat integrated into (inside) AggieSat4, the combined spacecraft were delivered to JSC on 3 November 2015, launched as soft stowage on OA-4 on 6 December 2015, and planned for release from the International Space Station (ISS) in January 2016 via JSC’s new Cyclops release mechanism. The objectives for this mission included relative-navigation solutions, three-axis stabilization, intersatellite communications, DRAGON GPS system characterization, and visual capability. In addition, after released from ISS, system checkout, and stabilization, AggieSat4 was planned to release Bevo-2 to begin pointing, tracking, and relative navigation operations.
The manager and coordinator of AggieSat4 project activities is the Principal Investigator, Dr. Helen Reed. She plans and directs the project; serves as the primary contact with NASA; and ensures that the work proceeds according to contract agreements. She conducts regular dialogue and status reviews with NASA. She participates in the timely resolution of any problems. She is responsible for all the required reporting for the program. The AggieSat Lab conducts its projects as follows: The AggieSat4 project is entirely student staffed and run, with daily oversight from Dr. Reed. Graduate students lead, manage, participate in all decisions and activities, and oversee CM/QA. An extracurricular team of undergraduate and graduate students (freshmen through PhD; all disciplines – engineering and non-engineering; 90% undergraduate; typically 25 per semester) is responsible for: requirement flowdown and traceability; safety; concepts, research, design; reviews; integration, testing; delivery; on-orbit operations; and data collection, report out, lessons learned. Students serve as Program Manager (PM), Subsystem Leads (payload; structures, mechanisms, thermal; attitude, orbit control; electrical power; command, data handling; communications), and team members.
AggieSat Lab, whose organizational home is in the Aerospace Engineering Department at TAMU,is available and adequate for this proposal. Participants must comply with ITAR; Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) is registered with the State Department and monitors Technology Control Plans and all participants are U.S. citizens. Strict Configuration Management and Quality Assurance practices are in place. The Lab has ~3400 sq. ft. of dedicated access-controlled and -monitored space, and supports satellite hardware and software design, prototyping, and fabrication, including secure storage area. The Lab’s ground station consists of a tower-based radio station, operating on the amateur portions of VHF and UHF bands and the 2.4 GHz ISM band. The Lab maintains FCC approval for all bands. High data rate upgrades were planned for Spring/Summer 2015 to support AggieSat4 (LoneStar Mission 2) with NASA Johnson Space Center.