The Challenges of Developing an Operational Nanosatellite

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CONFERENCE: AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites

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Homan, David; Young, Quinn
article description
Recent nanosatellite programs and studies of nanosatellites for operational missions have highlighted challenges that are unique to this spacecraft category. While each small satellite class has peculiar design challenges, nanosatellite development challenges are compounded by the unique niche that nanosatellites occupy and the current perception of hardware maturity levels available to support nanosatellite spacecraft. Recent experimental successes with microsatellite systems are allowing such spacecraft to rapidly move toward operational systems. This has produced a false perception that the same small, high TRL operational components and subsystems used in microsatellites will transition easily into the smaller nanosatellite designs. At the same time advances in the sophistication of CubeSat missions and academic programs have increased the expectation of the mission utility that should be possible with nanosatellites. This paper focuses on the unique design challenges of high mission utility nanosatellite programs and the current state of component and subsystem hardware available to meet the unique nanosatellite design constraints. Addressing these challenges in coming years will enable this class of spacecraft to become a viable and healthy part of the aerospace industry, and as a secondary payload improve the launch options and reduced cost commensurate with operationally responsive space (ORS) solutions.