january 13, 2021 - Taiwan Tech Arena

CES 2021 Tensor Tech built the world's tiniest satellite attitude control system using spherical motor technology

TAIPEI, Jan. 12, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- #tensortech developed groundbreaking spherical motor technology that will help more commercial players enter the space industry. Based in Taiwan, #tensortech addresses the biggest problem currently preventing many companies from exploring space - rocket launching costs and satellite building costs. #taiwantecharena (TTA) has selected Tensor as one of the 100 featured Taiwanese startups showcased at CES 2021.

According to #tensortech Co-founder and CEO Thomas Yen, "There are two obstacles for commercial players to enter the space industry: rocket launching costs and satellite building costs. To tackle these problems, satellite miniaturization is the key. Achieving the same mission purpose but using less weight, volume, and power will not only save on launching costs but also enables more room for payloads."

Yen explained that the attitude control system (ACS) tends to be the heaviest and largest of all the related subsystems.

"For decades, the size of the ACS could not be reduced significantly due to physical limitations. #tensortech has developed groundbreaking spherical motor technology that replaces three motors with just one. Our device's weight, size, and power consumption are two-thirds that of traditional systems," Yen said.

The Next-Gen Automobile Technology

Controlled by a patented, magnetic field design, Tensor Tech's spherical motor is capable of spinning in X, Y, and Z axes. Moreover, bias-currents are applied to each phase of the motor, enabling the motor to combine 3-axis magnetorquers into this device as well.

One of its applications is attitude control. Every satellite in orbit requires precise orientation control along the X, Y, and Z axes. This so-called attitude control is essential for optical-sensing and broadband communication satellites. To achieve this, #tensortech uses a tactical-grade gyroscope and fine sun sensor as the attitude determination sub-system, while the spherical motor functions as the attitude actuator.

Yen said that Tensor Tech's invention will enable the space industry to take on a wider range of commercial applications by allowing satellite missions to run more power-intensive operations (due to the reduced power needs of the ACS) and carry larger payloads.

"We provide our customers with a full stack service for the ACS. From the mission design phase to delivering hardware and integration support, we are not only your key subsystem supplier and consulting team, but also your best partner on this space journey," he said.

The technology of Tensor explained.

The Satellite Attitude Determination and Control System is designed for CubeSats of 1.5U, 2U, 3U, and 6U. A full set of attitude determination/actuator hardware and firmware is embedded. This sub-system combines 6 fine sun sensors (FSS100 from Tensor Tech), 1 reaction sphere (RS100 from Tensor Tech), and a tactical grade gyroscope to provide pointing accuracy up to 0.2 deg (3-sigma) when the sun is capturable and 1 deg (3-sigma) when it is not. A GPS module can increase the attitude determination precision.

One Reaction Sphere can perform the same function as 3 traditional reaction wheels, but at nearly 1/3 of the volume, cost, weight, and power consumption. Its max. angular momentum and max. torque can be customized for CubeSats of 1.5U, 2U, 3U, and 6U. In terms of rotational dynamics, the motor functions like a Single-Gimbal Control Moment Gyro, but is actuated by a spherical motor. Moreover, this motor can act like 3 magnetorquers in X, Y, and Z axes when bias currents are applied. With this device, you can control the orientation of your CubeSat the same as 3 traditional single-axis reaction wheels and 3 magnetorquers. However, the weight, size, and power consumption are lower.

Unlike traditional, single-axis reaction wheel motors, single spherical motors are capable of providing angular momentum in 3 axes. In addition, by applying bias currents, these motors act as 3 single-axis magnetorquers as well. In terms of rotational dynamics, it is actually a control moment gyro.

The algorithms include: (1) De-tumbling, (2) Attitude Sensor Calibration, (3) Attitude Determination, and (4) 3-axis Pointing Control. These are all embedded in Tensor Tech's controller. All that is needed is to provide attitude commands from satellite OBC via I2C or UART in a standard PC104 port.

CES 2021 TTA-VR Pavilion: https://pse.is/3b7gcr

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