sfl logo
University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies
Space flight laboratory
Smaller Satellites, Bigger Return

CanX-4&5 Formation Flying Mission Accomplished

canX45Nov5

In only four months following launch, the CanX-4 and CanX-5 dual satellite formation flying mission has been accomplished ahead of schedule.

During the month of October, the CanX-4&5 nanosatellites used on-board propulsion, GPS-based relative navigation, and intersatellite radios to execute a series of precise, controlled, autonomous formations, ranging from 1 km range down to 50 m separation. In each case, more than 10 orbits were accomplished with sub-meter formation control and centimeter-level relative navigation, feats which (to SFL’s knowledge) have never before been accomplished at the nanosatellite scale.

“CanX-4 and CanX-5 were designed to demonstrate formation flying in two along-track orbits, and two projected circular orbits,”, said Grant Bonin, the CanX-4&5 project manager. “We’re pleased to report that we’ve now completed all of the intended formations, and indications are that have out-performed our control performance requirements in every case. We are very pleased with the results.”

Launched on 30 June 2014 from Sriharikota, India onboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) which also carried the SPOT-7 satellite and two other spacecraft from Germany and Singapore, the CanX-4 and CanX-5 nanosatellites were deployed separately following launch, after which a series of orbit acquisition and phasing maneuvers were used to bring the satellites within communication range of each other.

Using carrier-phase differential GPS techniques for extremely high-precision relative navigation, the mission first undertook along-track orbit (ATO) formations at 1000m and 500m, after which the two spacecraft were reconfigured to perform projected-circular orbit (PCO) formations (in which one satellite appears to circle the other from a ground observer’s standpoint) at 100m and then 50m range. All guidance, navigation and control algorithms were developed in-house and executed autonomously on-orbit, with no ground intervention required during formation flight.

“CanX-4 and CanX-5 have pushed the boundary of what can be achieved with miniature spacecraft”, said Dr. Robert Zee, director of the Space Flight Laboratory. “These two satellites have allowed us to demonstrate high-performance formation flying algorithms and hardware that can enable a wide variety of small and large missions.”

The technologies and algorithms demonstrated on CanX-4&5 have several applications for a wide range of missions, such as on-orbit inspection and repair, sparse aperture sensing, interferometry, and ground moving target indication.

“Both satellites continue to perform exceptionally well, and we still have a very large fraction of our propellant remaining in CanX-5, and close to a full tank in CanX-4”, said Bonin.

SFL intends to begin publishing the detailed results of the CanX-4 and CanX-5 experiments over the next several months. The two spacecraft were designed, built, tested, and are being operated from SFL’s Microsatellite Science and Technology Center (MSTC) in Toronto, Canada.

LATEST NEWS

UTIAS-SFL Students Win Significant Awards for their Technical Papers
Aug 14 2018
SFL-Led Nanosatellite Team Receives Canadian Alouette Award for Precise Autonomous Formation Flight
May 17 2018
NorSat-3 Ordered by Norwegian Space Centre, Satellite Under Construction at SFL
Jan 10 2018
Norwegian AIS Satellites See Far More Ships
Jan 10 2018
BRITE Reveals Spots on Supergiant Star Drive Spirals in Stellar Wind
Oct 24 2017
CLARA on NorSat-1 Successfully Switched on for the First Time
Aug 25 2017
Norwegian Satellites Launched Successfully and Healthy
Jul 14 2017
GHGSat Unveils Satellite Imagery
May 23 2017
Dubai Space Centre Orders Environmental Monitoring Satellite from SFL
May 16 2017
After Only One Week, CanX-7 Shows Drag Sails are Effective at Deorbiting Satellite
May 11 2017
CanX-7 Successfully Deploys Drag Sails kicking off Deorbiting Demonstration
May 04 2017
GHGSat Announces 1000th Measurement – Two Months Ahead of Schedule
Apr 07 2017
Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) Nanosatellite Validates Aircraft Tracking, Prepares for Deorbit Demo
Mar 30 2017
Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) to Develop Microsatellites for Greenhouse Gas Monitoring
Mar 24 2017
CanX-7 Aircraft Tracking and Deorbiting Demo Satellite Launched, Contacted, and Healthy
Sep 26 2016
GHGSat-D (CLAIRE) Bus Commissioning Ahead of Schedule
Jun 27 2016
M3MSat Launched and Successfully Contacted
Jun 22 2016
GHGSat-D (CLAIRE) Launches Successfully and First Contact Indicates Good Health
Jun 22 2016
Deep Space Industries and SFL selected to provide satellites for HawkEye 360’s Pathfinder mission
May 26 2016
Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) to Provide LEO Bus to SSL
May 10 2016
NORSAT-1 Launch Postponed Due to Faulty Bracket Provided by Arianespace
Apr 14 2016
BRITE-Constellation Sees Stars in a New Light
Feb 05 2016
Deep Space Industries Teams with UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory to Demonstrate Autonomous Spacecraft Maneuvering
Jan 26 2016
exactView-9 Launched Successfully and Contacted
Sep 28 2015
SFL’s Josh Newman Wins 1st Place in Small Satellite Student Competition for CanX-4 and CanX-5 Formation Flying Mission Contribution
Aug 12 2015
NORSAT-2 Contract Awarded to SFL by Norwegian Space Centre
Jul 13 2015
CanX-4&5 Formation Flying Mission Accomplished
Nov 05 2014
CanX-4 & CanX-5 Formation Flying Mission, One Month in Space
Jul 30 2014
Space Flight Laboratory Launches Five Satellites in Two Weeks
Jul 08 2014
AISSat-2 Successfully Launched
Jul 08 2014
Update on BRITE-Toronto and BRITE-Montreal
Jul 03 2014
Indian rocket successfully launches two Canadian satellites
Jun 30 2014
Two low-cost, car battery-sized Canadian space telescopes launched today
Jun 19 2014
UniBRITE and BRITE-Austria Commissioned and Operating Successfully
Feb 25 2014
Canadian Space Agency Awards Propulsion System Development Contract to SFL
Dec 02 2013
BRITE-PL1, WNISat-1, and GOMX-1 Launch Successfully
Nov 21 2013
Norwegian Space Centre Awards AISSat-3 Project to SFL
Jul 08 2013
SFL Wins Contract for First Norwegian Science Satellite – NORSAT-1
Jun 14 2013
UniBRITE Achieves Arcminute-Level Fine Pointing for First of its Kind Space Astronomy Mission
Jun 09 2013
Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Demonstration Satellite Contract Awarded
May 01 2013
Next Generation Automatic Identification System Satellites to be Developed under Communitech Program
Apr 19 2013
World's Smallest Astronomy Satellites In Orbit! (Toronto Star Article)
Feb 25 2013
Austrian BRITE Satellites Launched Successfully and Healthy! (Globe and Mail article)
Feb 25 2013
Microsatellite Science and Technology Centre (MSTC) Opens its Doors to the World
May 25 2012
Canadian Space Agency Awards Micro-mission Cluster Pilots Project to SFL
Mar 28 2012
SPACE-SI Awards NEMO-HD Contract to SFL
Dec 22 2011
Canada adds two satellites to BRITE Constellation
Jan 19 2011
AISSat-1 celebrates six months of success on-orbit, first nanosatellite with high performance pointing
Jan 12 2011
Norway signs AISSat-2 deal
Jan 06 2011
New Microsatellite Science and Technology Center (MSTC) planned for completion in late 2011
Dec 15 2010
View All News Articles
© 2014 University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Lab. All rights reserved.