To enable a reliable verification of attitude determination and control systems for nanosatellites, the environment of low Earth orbits with almost disturbance-free rotational dynamics must be simulated. This work describes the design solutions adopted for developing a dynamic nanosatellite attitude simulator testbed at the University of Bologna. The facility integrates several subsystems, including: (i) an air-bearing three degree of freedom platform, with automatic balancing system, (ii) a Helmholtz cage for geomagnetic field simulation, (iii) a Sun simulator, and (iv) a metrology vision system for ground-truth attitude generation. Apart from the commercial off-the-shelf Helmholtz cage, the other subsystems required substantial development efforts. The main purpose of this manuscript is to offer some cost-effective solutions for their in-house development, and to show through experimental verification that adequate performances can be achieved. The proposed approach may thus be preferred to the procurement of turn-key solutions, when required by budget constraints. The main outcome of the commissioning phase of the facility are: a residual disturbance torque affecting the air bearing platform of less than 5 × 10−5
Nm, an attitude determination rms
accuracy of the vision system of 10 arcmin, and divergence of the Sun simulator light beam of less than 0.5° in a 35 cm diameter area.
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