In Orbit Operations of an Educational Cubesat: the e-st@r-II Experience
CubeSats have achieved a place of relevance in the modern space missions. However, CubeSats need improvements in terms of new technologies, mission and system reliability, and management of the entire product life cycle. A major lack of knowledge exists about the operations of past and current CubeSats in orbit. Operations planning and re-planning, failures and anomalies management, step-by-step procedures and rules of execution are crucial but poorly analyzed aspects that can increase the success rate of a mission. Moreover, information about the programmatic and technical achievements and lessons learned during the operation phases is often not available or incomplete. However, the sharing of the results, especially for educational programs, becomes fundamental to improve the quality of missions and to prevent mistakes. This paper aims at reducing this gap of knowledge and at sharing the experience and the lessons learned gained by the CubeSat Team of Politecnico di Torino over the three years of in-orbit operations of the E-ST@R-II mission. The flexible approach adopted for the operations planning, the management of anomalies and the re-planning of the operations are presented. Simple yet effective tools have been developed for mission planning and root causes identification, and they are presented through the discussion of the main technical and educational results. The paper provides also a list of good practices and recommendations applicable to future CubeSat missions.
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