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Surviving Orbit the DIY Way by Sandy Antunes

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Chapter 8. Good Test Procedures

The answer to where you should test your picosatellite is everywhere. You need to test it in the lab while it’s being built, then after it is being built. Then test it remotely from across the lab, hands-off, to make sure the basic communications channels work. You can then fly it on a helium low-altitude balloon to make sure it works floating free and that you can communicate with it and operate it. Try a high altitude balloon if you can, to see how it behaves in rarified air. Booking a sub-orbital or ballistic launch can give it a good rocket test and vacuum test, though it’s worth pointing out that will make it experience extra jarring.

Your satellite will by nature be modular in design. It will have the basic bus or platform (one component), then the instruments or experiment. A given bus design can be reused for different experiment packages, so having a robust bus that survives one flight is a great way to start a series of picosatellite missions, each building on the last. Finally, picosatellites come in 1U (single cube), 2U (two cubes), and 3U (3 cube) form factors, and you can consider testing them in segments.

Flight Spares

You must always build at least two of every spacecraft board. I cannot emphasize this enough. During testing, you will have a primary build set that you are using, and your flight spare. Both should be tested. By definition, your flight model will be the board that best passes testing, and the spare is the second best of ...

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