Laser Communications CubeSat Experiencing Attitude Control Problems

Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) Spacecraft Configuration. OCSD differs from other space-based laser communication systems because the laser is hard-mounted to the spacecraft body, and the orientation of the CubeSat controls the direction of the beam. This makes the laser system more compact than anything previously flown in space. (Credit: NASA/Ames)
Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) Spacecraft Configuration. (Credit: NASA/Ames)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NASA PR) — The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) satellite that launched Oct. 8 currently is experiencing a problem with its attitude control system, according to The Aerospace Corporation. Aerospace built the CubeSat and is operating it in orbit. The OCSD satellite is communicating by radio with the ground, but the attitude control system must function properly in order to demonstrate the optical communications system. NASA is discussing the issue with Aerospace as they investigate the problem.

OCSD is the first in a new series of six NASA-managed technology demonstration missions set to launch during the coming months using CubeSats to test technologies that can enable new uses for these miniature satellites, which measure 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm (about 4 inches per side). NASA, other government agencies, academia and commercial companies can incorporate these technologies, which range from high-speed communications to novel propulsion systems to technologies that enable rendezvous and docking, into future space missions.

OCSD differs from other space-based laser communication systems because the laser is hard-mounted to the spacecraft body, and the orientation of the CubeSat controls the direction of the beam. This makes the laser system more compact than anything previously flown in space. The CubeSat will evaluate the ability to point a small satellite accurately as it demonstrates data transfer by laser at rates of up to 200 Mb/s — a factor of 100 increase over current high-end CubeSat communications systems.