I have been a member of the UC Davis Space and Satellite Systems Club since December of 2018, and the sun sensor team lead since Summer of 2019. Currently, I am working with fellow students on the Attitude Determination and Control System (ADCS) team to develop a low-cost photodiode sun sensor for our 2U CubeSat (Cube Satellite), which is set to launch in 2021 as per our contract with NASA. The sun sensor will be a vital component for determining the satellites attitude, which will be done by calculating the sun vector. 

The sun sensors team after presenting at the UCD Space and Satellite System Club’s ADCS Preliminary Design Review.

The sun sensors project began in January of 2019, with me as the sole member. I started from scratch and over the course of a year, built the sun sensors team to include ten people across various majors. In the process, I am writing a “Sun Sensors Handbook,” which I use to introduce new members to our team and to document our progress and research for future club members. Documentation has proved to be a very important part of my duties as team lead.

Please click HERE to view the latest version of the Sun Sensors Handbook.

The device I created for testing photodiodes. A continuous digital servo is mounted to a 3D printed support. The photodiode is mounted on the center of the shaft connected to the servo, which allows it to sweep 180 degrees under a light source while an Arduino collects the data.

Above, our most recent test set-up is shown. It is a mock 1U CubeSat that can be fitted with various sun sensor configurations, and then rotated about three axes beneath a light source to test the response of the photodiodes.