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SFL’s Josh Newman Wins 1st Place in Small Satellite Student Competition for CanX-4 and CanX-5 Formation Flying Mission Contribution

Josh Newman, a recent graduate of the Space Flight Laboratory’s Master of Applied Science program, took first place in the Utah State University’s Small Satellite Conference Student Competition for his work in the highly successful CanX-4 and CanX-5 formation flying mission. The competition attracts contenders from around the world who are seeking the coveted prize that delivers both top recognition in the industry and a hefty financial award. Josh captured the prize after taking on some serious competition from other universities in the United States and Germany.

john newman

Figure 1: Josh Newman Wins 1st Place at the Small Satellite Conference

“I’m elated for Josh and the CanX-4 & CanX-5 team,” says Dr. Robert Zee, Director of SFL, “we knew that it was going to be difficult for others to beat Josh given his outstanding work and actual on-orbit results.” Josh developed the Drift Recovery And STation Keeping (DRASTK) algorithm for the formation flying mission that was successfully completed with flying colors in November 2014. “DRASTK played a critical role in helping to rendezvous the two satellites after drifting apart during post-launch commissioning,” says Zee, “the algorithm was also used during periods between formation demonstrations to adjust their separations and maintain them until the next formation sequence was initiated. The thing that makes DRASTK special is the optimization of fuel usage.” Indeed, the CanX-4 and CanX-5 mission was completed with a healthy fuel margin, using only 25% of the total fuel available from both spacecraft.

CanX-4 and CanX-5 demonstrated four controlled formations ranging from 50m to 1,000m in separation distance. Carrier phase differential GPS was used to determine relative positions to within a few centimeters. Precise control was successfully demonstrated in relative positioning to less than 1m, outperforming the otherwise daunting CanX-4/CanX-5 mission requirements.
Prior to the win in Utah, the German space agency, DLR, verified the results of CanX-4 & CanX-5 independently of SFL, thereby validating the claims made by SFL about the highly successful mission.

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