Blue Canyon Technologies Named AIAA/USU Small Satellite of the Year Award Winner


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For the fifth consecutive year, small satellite manufacturer Blue Canyon Technologies has provided critical hardware for the winner of the AIAA Small Satellite of the Year Award. The award was presented at the 2020 AIAA Small Satellite Conference, which was held virtually this year.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Technical Committee awarded the 2020 title to the Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP) mission, led by principal investigator Dr. J. Vanderlei Martins from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). The spacecraft was manufactured by the Space Dynamics Laboratory to carry the UMBC Earth and Space Institute-built HARP payload, and was deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) in February after being delivered to the station on a Cygnus cargo spacecraft. The CubeSat carries an imaging polarimeter designed to measure properties of cloud and aerosol particles in Earth’s atmosphere. BCT supplied the XACT-15 model of its state-of-the-art XACT Attitude Control System for the HARP mission, providing Space Dynamics Laboratory with industry leading pointing accuracy for its CubeSat.

The Small Satellite of the Year Awards are presented annually to a mission that has demonstrated a significant improvement in the capability of small satellites. Eligible missions must have individual satellite wet mass of less than 150 kg, and must have launched, established communication, and have acquired results from on-orbit after January 1 of the previous year.

Previous award-winning missions Blue Canyon Technologies has supported also include:

  • The JPL-led MarCO mission (2019): The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Technical Committee awarded the 2019 title to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) MarCO mission. MarCO is the first interplanetary CubeSat mission, having successfully traveled through deep space to Mars. BCT provided its XACT Attitude Control System for both MarCO-A and MarCO-B, two briefcase-sized satellites that accompanied the Insight lander and provided near-real-time telemetry as the rover pierced the atmosphere of the Red Planet.
  • The JPL-led ASTERIA mission (2018): BCT provided the XACT ADCS component for the Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics (ASTERIA) mission. The primary objective of the mission was to demonstrate that its small payload could look for exoplanets that transit their parent star, via precision observation. Deployed from the International Space Station, ASTERIA is the first CubeSat to achieve sub-arcsecond pointing accuracy. The highly integrated XACT enabled the groundbreaking pointing accuracy, with a native stability of 1.6 arcseconds. Data from the payload showed the pointing stability could be achieved by the XACT alone.
  • NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) (2017): CYGNSS is a constellation of 8 microsatellites, manufactured and operated by the University of Michigan and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). The low-Earth orbit satellites make frequent measurements of ocean surface winds to monitor the location, size, intensity and development of tropical cyclones, mostly looking for how they intensify. BCT provided 24 high-performance RWp015 Reaction Wheels and 8 Star Trackers for the mission constellation.
  • MinXSS-1 (2016): BCT manufactured its first XACT Attitude Control System for the University of Colorado (LASP) MinXSS-1 mission. On orbit for 354 days, MinXSS-1 collected soft X-ray emissions from the sun to measure their intensity.

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