QB50 is a unique mission establishing an international network of 50 nano-satellites for multi-point, in-situ measurements in the lower thermosphere and re-entry research. As part of the FP7 QB50 consortium, the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) intends to contribute two nano-satellites, named Delta and Phi, to form the space segment of the so-called DelFFi mission, which will be an integral part of the QB50 mission.
The DelFFi project is the third satellite project within the Delfi program. he objective of the DelFFi mission is to demonstrate as part of QB50 autonomous formation flying between Delta and Phi. This will be achieved using highly innovative concepts, methodologies and technologies. The satellites of QB50 form a network with permanently changing relative positions and velocities. In contrast, DelFFi enables to autonomously control the relative dynamics of Delta and Phi using various guidance, navigation and control technologies.
DelFFi will provide unique benefits to QB50. The use of various highly innovative navigation, guidance and control methods and technology for the world first ever nano-satellite formation flying mission will provide unprecedented assets to the overall QB50 mission and enable QB50 as a platform for integrating various distributed space concepts, such as a formation and a network within a single mission. Moreover, the capability to adjust in-flight the baseline between two satellites according to the needs of atmospheric scientists enhances the scientific objectives of the QB50 mission fundamentally. The visibility of QB50 will be significantly enlarged by DelFFi through its unique contributions to engineering, technology, operations and science. In the future, employing massively distributed space systems of highly miniaturized spacecraft will be an enabling technology for unprecedented applications. DelFFi as part of QB50 will pave the way towards this breakthrough.
The mission statement of the DelFFi mission is as follows:
“The DelFFi mission shall demonstrate autonomous formation flying and provide enhanced scientific return within QB50 from 2015 onwards, by utilizing two identical triple-unit Cubesats of TU Delft which further advance the Delfi-n3Xt platform.”
The objectives of the DelFFi mission are threefold:
- Demonstrate autonomous formation flying using various Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) architectures.
- Facilitate students with hands-on experience and cutting-edge technology.
- Characterize low thermosphere with enhanced scientific return by using distributed observation on various geometric baselines.
Autonomous formation flying (AFF) is defined as combined GNC activity to maintain formation control windows of a satellite formation without human interaction. In addition, the objectives of the Delfi program are directly applied to the DelFFi mission