Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

An In-The-Loop Simulator for the Verification of Small Space Platforms

Fabrizio Stesina(1), Sabrina Corpino(2*), Lorenzo Feruglio(3)

(1) Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Italy
(2) Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Italy
(3) Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Italy
(*) Corresponding author



The paper presents an end-to-end simulator to support the engineering team in design and verification activity across the whole product life cycle. The simulator is devoted to the analysis of small space systems, which present specific features compared to large traditional platforms. Improving the understanding of the system early in the life cycle, and enhancing the verification process may help to increase the reliability and mission success of small-scale satellites while maintaining their key features of low cost and fast delivery. The simulator was designed through a Model and Simulation Based approach and it performs “in-the-loop simulations” for the verification of functional and operational requirements at component, subsystem, and system level. The simulator is characterized by a modular architecture to adapt to several missions and different system configurations, also outside the field of space engineering. The core of the tool is a multi-processor workstation that sets up and runs the simulation, making use of a database of models for the equipment and the mission environment, and a built-in interface unit to connect all the elements. The simulator has been successfully tested on a CubeSat project. Many test sessions were run and they are described in detail in this article.
Copyright © 2017 Praise Worthy Prize - All rights reserved.


CubeSat; Design Methodology; Model and Simulation Approach; Space Systems Engineering; Verification and Testing

Full Text:



Eickhoff, J. (2009). Simulating Spacecraft Systems. Springer Aerospace Technology, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Bandecchi, M. (ESA), Gardini, B. (ESA), Melton, B. (ESA), and Ongaro, F. (ESA). (2000). “The ESA/ESTEC Concurrent Design Facility.” 2nd European Systems Engineering Conference (EuSEC2000), 329–336.

Mager, R., and Hartmann, R. (2000). “The Satellite Design Office at Astrium - A Success Story of an Industrial Design Center Application.” EuSEC 2000.

Judnick, D. C. (2010). “Concept Design Center Pre-work Overview.” AIAA Space Conference & Exposition, The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, ed., Reston, VA.

Lovera M. (2001), “Control-oriented modeling and simulation of spacecraft attitude and orbit dynamics”, Journal of Mathematical and Computer Modelling of Dynamical Systems, Special issue on Modular Physical Modelling, 12(1), 73–88, 2006.

Eickhoff, J., Falke, A., and Röser, H.-P. (2007). “Model-based design and verification—State of the art from Galileo constellation down to small university satellites.” Acta Astronautica, 61(1-6), 383–390.

Oscar R. Polo et al. “End-to-end validation process for the INTA-Nanosat-1B Attitude Control System”, Acta Astronautica 93 (2014), pp. 94–105

Schwartz J. L., Peck M.A., and Hall C.D., "Historical Review of Air-Bearing Spacecraft Simulators", Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, Vol. 26, No. 4 (2003), pp. 513-522.

Miller, D.W., Kong, E.M.C., and Saenz-Otero, A., "Overview of the SPHERES Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking Laboratory on the International Space Station," 26th Annual AAS Guidance and Control Conference, Breckenridge, CO, 5-9 February, 2003

J. Prado, G. Bisiacchi, L. Reyes et al., “Three-axis air-bearing based platform for small satellite attitude determination and control simulation,” Journal of Applied Research and Technology, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 222–237, 2005

Saulnier K., Gallardo D., Bevilacqua R. et alii, "Operational Capabilities of a Six Degrees of Freedom Spacecraft Simulator", AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) Conference, Guidance, Navigation, and Control and Co-located Conferences, (AIAA 2013-5253).

Pond B. and Sharf I., "Experimental Evaluation of Flexible Manipulator Trajectory Optimization", Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, Vol. 24, No. 4 (2001), pp. 834-843.

M.Grassi, G.Rufino, D. Accardo, G.Fasano, U. Tancredi, A.Renga, “Real Time hardware in the loop tests of star trackers algorithms”, International Journal of Aerospace Engineering, vol 2013, 2013, ISSN 1687-5966.

Samaan M. and Steffes S. and Theil S. (2011) Star Tracker Real-Time Hardware In The Loop Testing Using Optical Star Simulator, 2011 Space Flight Meeting, 30 Jan-2 Feb 2011, New Orleans, USA.

Klesh A., Seagraves S., Bennett M., Boone D., Cutler J., Bahcivan H., Dynamically driven Helmholtz cage for experimental magnetic attitude determination, Advances in the Astronautical Sciences, 135 , pp. 147-160, (2010)

Object Management Group, O. (2014). “Introduction To OMG’s Unified Modeling LanguageTM (UML®).” (Jan. 1, 2015).

Agnew, D., Claesen, L., and Camposano, R. (Eds.). (1993). Computer Hardware Description Languages and their Applications. Computer Hardware Description Languages and their Applications, Elsevier.

Weilkiens, T. (2007). Systems Engineering with SysML/UML. Systems Engineering with SysML/UML, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., 1–22.

Hoffmann, H.-P. (2005). “UML 2.0-Based Systems Engineering Using a Model-Driven Development Approach.” CrossTalk The Journal of Defense Software Engineering, 1–18.

Toorian, A., Diaz, K., and Lee, S. (2008). “The CubeSat approach to space access.” IEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings, 1(1), 1–14.

“CubeSat Design Specification R13.” (2014).

Bouwmeester, J., and Guo, J. (2010). “Survey of worldwide pico- and nanosatellite missions, distributions and subsystem technology.” Acta Astronautica, Elsevier, 67(7-8), 854–862.

Staehle, R., Blaney, D., and Hemmati, H. (2011). “Interplanetary CubeSats: Opening the Solar System to a Broad Community at Lower Cost.” Journal of Small Satellites, 1–30.

Viscio, M. A., Viola, N., Corpino, S., Stesina, F., Fineschi, S., Fumenti, F., and Circi, C. (2014). “Interplanetary CubeSats system for space weather evaluations and technology demonstration.” Acta Astronautica, Elsevier Ltd, 104(2), 516–525.

Woellert, K., Ehrenfreund, P., Ricco, A. J., and Hertzfeld, H. (2011). “CubeSats: Cost-effective science and technology platforms for emerging and developing nations.” Advances in Space Research, 47, 663–684.

Dubos, G. F., Castet, J. F., and Saleh, J. H. (2010). “Statistical reliability analysis of satellites by mass category: Does spacecraft size matter?” Acta Astronautica, 67, 584–595.

Corpino, S., and Stesina, F. (2014). “Verification of a CubeSat via hardware-in-the-loop simulation.” IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems, 50(4), 2807–2818.

Stesina, F., Corpino, S., Mozzillo, R., and Rabasa, G. O. (2012). “Design of the active attitude determination and control system for the E-ST@R CUBESAT.” Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC, Iternational Astronautical Federation, Naples, 4585–4594.

Corpino, S., Obiols-Rabasa, G., Mozzillo, R., & Nichele, F. (2016). “E-st@r-I experience: Valuable knowledge for improving the e-st@r-II design”. Acta Astronautica, 121, 13-22.

ECSS-E-TM-10-21A “System modelling and simulation”, European Cooperation for Space Standardization, 2010


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Please send any question about this web site to
Copyright © 2005-2019 Praise Worthy Prize