Modular design for space engineering research platforms

Post, Mark and Lee, Regina and Quine, Brendan (2011) Modular design for space engineering research platforms. In: 8th International Conference on Informatics in Control, Automation and Robotics (ICINCO 2011), 2011-07-28 - 2011-07-31.

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In this paper, we describe a modular design approach that is used in developing several research platforms for space engineering research at York University. We briefly describe three distinct research projects for space science and engineering research: a 6kg micro-rover under development for the Northern Light mars lander mission, a 50kg rover built by the York University Rover Team to compete in the annual University Rover Challenge, and a 1U CubeSat design for nanosatellite technology development research. All three research projects share a design philosophy to achieve modularity, efficiency, robustness and simplicity by adopting a common embedded hardware configuration using COTS hardware and a simple control topology. An on-board computer board stack based on a PC/104 or similar form-factor provides centralized control using an ARM microcontroller. Payloads and application-specific components are added using robust SPI, synchronous serial, and RS-485 interfaces, with provision made for ethernet and USB connectivity when needed. The software for this system is is based on open-source compilers and operating systems and is also modular in nature, using a portable base station GUI, wireless mesh networking between different systems, and JAUS messaging for flexible component-level communications. The proposed design approach allows sharing of resources while optimizing design features with cost-effective, readily-available commercial components for complex research projects.