ALTAIR 1 CubeSat

Image: Millennium Space Systems

Altair 1 or Altair Pathfinder is a 6-Unit CubeSat developed by Millennium Space Systems to complete a demonstration mission of the company’s ALTAIR Core product line and payload support technologies.

Millennium Space Systems, based in El Segundo, California, specializes in satellite platforms and components for all types of satellites up to 3,000 Kilograms. The ALTAIR product line is the company’s small satellite development, offering a cost-effective small satellite solution that can be delivered within six months of being ordered.

According to MSS, the ALTAIR platform is conceptualized as a 27U CubeSat, measuring 30 x 30 x 30 centimeters in size and capable of hosting a payload of up to 50kg/90Watts. The E1 version of ALTAIR – using COTS parts and supporting a payload power of 27W – is available for a fixed price of $500,000. ALTAIR is advertised as a flight platform for Low Earth Orbit, Geostationary Orbit and deep space missions.

ALTAIR 27U Platform – Image: Millennium Space Systems

The ALTAIR1 CubeSat, 10 x 10 x 60 centimeters in size, hosts the ALTAIR core hardware to demonstrate all critical subsystems in their objective design to eliminate technical risks and elevate Technology Readiness Levels for the inauguration of the commercial version of the satellite bus.

This demonstration mission will also build flight heritage required for NASA and Department of Defence spacecraft.

ALTAIR 1 incorporates several new technologies in its navigation system, onboard control system and power system. The 1x6U satellite structure uses 3D-printed components and facilitates body-mounted solar cells plus four large deployable solar panels to increase power availability to around 16W of orbit average power, stored in a 6.4 Amp-hour battery.

Image: Millennium Space Systems

The Attitude Determination and Control System hosts inertial reference sensors, a tri-axial magnetometer, star trackers and conformal torque coils for attitude actuation plus a reaction wheel for pitch momentum biasing. One focus of the demonstration mission will be on the new low-cost Star Tracker an inertial reference sensors and their performance with respect to the 10arcsec pointing knowledge and 20arcsec pointing accuracy targeted for operational ALTAIR missions.

The Command and Data Handling Subsystem employs a new flight processor with level zero (no software) control. Thermal control is accomplished with advanced passive thermal management systems and heaters controlled via the L0 board of the satellite.

The overall objective of the ALTAIR 1 mission is to demonstrate the platform subsystems in an operational environment, including flight radiation exposure for electronics specifically selected and screened for use in space. Functional demonstrations will include the navigation sensors over an extended time frame and testing of the satellite’s onboard processing functions, next-generation radios and new RF front end. The satellite is planned to operate for at least four weeks and is expected to stay in orbit for around 1.2 years.