Development of a solar array drive mechanism for micro-satellite platforms

Giorgos Galatis, Jian Guo*, Jeroen Buursink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Photovoltaic solar array (PVSA) systems are the most widely used method for spacecraft power generation. However, in many satellite missions, the optimum orientation of the PVSA system is not always compatible with that of the payload orientation. Many methods, have been examined in the past to overcome this problem. Up to date, the most widely used active method for large costly satellites is the Solar Array Drive Mechanism (SADM). The SADM serves as the interface between the satellite body and the PVSA subsystem, enabling the decoupling of their spatial orientation. Nonetheless, there exists a research and development gap for such systems regarding low cost micro-satellites. During the literature study of this paper, individual orbital parameters of various micro-satellites have been extracted and compared to the rotational freedom of the corresponding SADMs used. The findings demonstrated that the implemented SADMs are over designed. It is therefore concluded that these components are not tailored made for each spacecraft mission individually, but rather, exhibit a generic design to full fill a majority of mission profiles and requirements. Motivated by the above analysis, the cardinal objective of the current research is to develop a low cost mechanism that will be precisely tailored for the use of a low Earth orbit (LEO) micro-satellite platform orbiting in altitudes of 500−1000km. The design of the mechanism may vary from the existing miniaturized SADMs. For example, the preliminary analysis of the current research suggests, that the conventional use of the slip ring system as the electronic transfer unit can be replaced by a seMI Orientation Unit (MIOU). Systems engineering tools for concept generation and selection have been used. In addition, simulation and mathematical modelling have been implemented on component and system level, to accurately predict the behaviour of the system under various modes of operation. The production and system testing of the prototype has taken place and it has verified that the development of such a system, will aid the power generation of the solar arrays, while having a positive impact on the cost reduction of such satellites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-418
Number of pages12
JournalActa Astronautica
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • LEO
  • Micro-satellite
  • SADM
  • Solar arrays

Cite this