In 2023 the BristolSEDS 3U CubeSat design went alive! Well… it has not seen the earth from more than a couple of meters, but looked for flying objects and communicated with our software magician.

The rules said: A 3U Satellite is wanted, engineered to detect the size and velocity of 1 cm or larger debris, whilst also acquiring earth positioning and axis rotation readings.

As a completely new team of undergraduates, many of which were brave first years from multiple engineering faculties, we had to start our research from zero. The 8-month journey had started with evaluating our previous experience and most importantly, passion for a set of technical aspects. This divided us into 3 sub teams: AOSC, Electronics and Software, Mechanical design and Structures. A desire to learn in many areas turned out to be the key when we passed the preliminary design stage:

  • Power, electronics and Batteries
  • Single board computers and microcontrollers
  • Communication and Sensors
  • Reaction wheel motor and drive
  • CAD design and manufacturing

Extensive research has been completed for the critical design stage which guaranteed us a place among the 5 teams that got to build their satellites. Our policy was to focus on the set mission but leave space for each members’ ideas and their realisation. As a mechatronics fan I planned a reaction wheel design, utilizing an old HDD memory and soldering an SMD IC.

Seems as everything went as planned so can we call it a success? Depends on the point of view as between the moment we had a green light for being 1 of ‘The 5’ and the competition day there was a month. A month overlapping with the assessment period! Stress! Shortage of Raspberries Stress!

For the 1st years, this was a striking learn curve and for those graduating like me, just unforgettable. Despite having a solid report, last minute changes were not missing. A failure of the main computers, controlling dual camera image analysis, just a week before ‘The day’ forced us to adapt the software for another model.

Taking the train to Stevenage, our Satellite was put in a ‘mystery’ room performing the outlined tasks, later in a vacuum chamber, part of Airbus’ testing facilities! Not everything worked as on paper, but we are proud of being the only team led by bachelors’ students only reaching the finals!