Mission planning tool for small satellites



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The Texas Spacecraft Laboratory (TSL) at the University of Texas at Austin is currently planning to launch two CubeSat missions in 2014. Innovations are more readily attempted on such low-risk small satellites than with higher-cost payloads, which puts CubeSats at the forefront of space research. The TSL CubeSats will thus be used to pioneer and demonstrate new on-orbit technology. Due to the innovative aspect of the CubeSat missions, limited prior experience exists with the technology used. It is thus important to have an accurate understanding of mission operations prior to launch through computer simulation. In order to improve the success and reliability of current and future TSL missions, a MATLAB tool was developed to simulate on-orbit operations. The various capabilities of the user-friendly tool developed include power budget calculations, pass determination and orbit simulation. The comprehensive program can predict the life of the spacecraft at critical moments of its operation and, in general, help improve understanding of how to successfully meet mission requirements and design mission operations.