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DC motors stabilise Scotland's first satellite

01 February, 2013

A tiny satellite, due to be launched in March, will be Scotland’s first spacecraft. It is relying on slightly modified miniature DC motors to keep it stable in orbit.

Scotland’s first satellite, a compact device called the UKube-1 and weighing around 4kg, is due to blast into space in March on board a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. UKube-1 is a member of a class of miniature spacecraft known as nano-satellites, or CubeSats, assembled from modules measuring just 10 x 10 x 10cm and having a mass of around 1kg. They are designed to offer a low-cost entry into space research and exploration. The Scottish satellite (shown below) will consist of three such cubes.

UKube-1 has been designed and built by Clyde Space at its facility on the West of Scotland Science Park in Glasgow. Funding has come from Clyde Space and its partners, who include the UK Space Agency, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Technology Strategy Board. Scottish Enterprise has helped to develop subsystem technologies including an advanced attitude determination and control system, deployable solar panels for increased on-board power, and the mission software.

The nano-satellite is one of the most advanced of its kind, and will carry six independent, advanced payloads. The UKube-1 mission is a pilot for a collaborative, national CubeSat programme that would bring UK industry together with academia to fly educational packages, test new technologies, and carry out new space research quickly and efficiently.

The UKube-1 payloads include: a GPS device for measuring plasmaspheric space weather; a camera to take images of the Earth and to test the effects of radiation on space hardware using a new generation of imaging sensor; and an experiment to demonstrate the feasibility of using cosmic radiation to improve the security of communications satellites and to flight-test lower-cost electronic systems. The satellite will also carry five experiments with which UK students and the public will be able to interact. There will also be an educational payload called FunCube aimed at enthusing and educating schoolchildren about space, electronics, physics and radio.

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