Introduction of Participants - The 1st CLTP, 2011

Esaú Vicente Vivas (Mexico)

Esaú Vicente Vivas (Mexico)

  • Present Status: Instituto de Ingeniería Research Center, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
  • Present Position: Researcher, Leader of "Grupo de Desarrollo de Sistemas Aeroespaciales", Instituto de Ingeniería, UNAM.
  • Field of Specialization: PhD Degree in Semi-Virtual Fault-Tolerant Computer Architectures and Small Satellite Instrumentation, from UNAM, México
  • Present Research Interests:
    • Development of Cost-Effective Educative Small Satellites (SATEDU, Classroom Satellites) to Train Human Resources in the Small Satellite Field. Including subsystems such as: Structural, Power, Wireless Communications, Flight Computers, Platform Sensors, Integration of Inertial Navigation Sensors, Stabilization, On-board Operations Software, and Ground Station Software.
    • Development of Educative Satellites with 3 Axis Stabilization Capabilities Employing Momentum Wheels and Magnetic Torque Coils.
    • Development of Tele-Health payloads for Educative Satellites as a Way to Validate the HUMSAT project payload operation.
    • Validation of Stabilization Resources Capabilities for Small Satellites (Educative Satellites and Real Small Satellites) through Matlab Virtual Modeling as well as by the use of Instrumented Frictionless Air Bearing Systems.
    • Development of FPGA Based Polymorphic Computer Architectures to implement Flexible 3 axis Stabilization Means in Small Satellites (Educative Satellites and Real Small Satellites).
    • FPGA hardware implementation of Kalman Filter for Attitude Estimators in Small Satellites.
    • Use of S Band Communications Equipment for Payload Telemetry Downloading in 3 Axis Stabilized Small Satellites.
    • Development of the first Fully Mexican 3 Axis Stabilized Small Satellite.
  • Short Biography: Esaú Vicente was part of the Core Group which achieved the VI Americas Space Conference which was celebrated in November 2010 in Pachuca, México, this event was the international presentation of the Mexican Space Agency (under formation). He was also part of the promotion group to generate the Mexican Space Agency which is about to be established in 2011.
Statement of Purpose

Several years back I knew by internet the work that was being done in USA in the field of CanSats. It seemed to me very interesting and useful to be employed in Mexican Universities. However, by the time we had neither the environment nor the time to start such an initiative. Now, as the Mexican space agency (MSA) is to start activities this year. I proposed to some temporal authorities of the MSA (we still don't have Agency Director) to start a national work line to promote and train young human resources all over our country.

The idea was taken as attractive and I know this program for sure will bring many benefits for students, universities and more in our country.

On the other side, Japan is a very attractive country for people from all over the world. Specially by its high Technology, culture, history and many other things. So, when I knew about this program I was very enthusiastic to have the chance to get involved in the CanSat initiative.

Feedback on the CLTP Program

This program is fantastic from any side it is seen. It allowed all of the participants to get the knowledge of two full CanSat experiences. Starting with the initial course about a very flexible computer, the mbed system (which will become even better in the next generation after skipping some light drawbacks) discussion of the project idea, the design, the development (hardware and software), the validation, the correction of mistakes, the conduction of the projects, the launching process, the digestion of learned lessons, the interaction with international colleagues, and so on.

We made our first CanSat project in just 2 days. It included the mbed computer, gyros, accelerometers, atmospheric pressure sensor, batteries, stand-alone digital video camera, foam structure placed inside a can and parachute. The first validation was done launching the CanSat from the top of a building in Wakayama University. After the tests, mbed file data were downloaded in our laptops to analyze CanSat mission data. Then the CanSat was successfully launched with a rocket in Wakayama. The CanSat was recovered in the field and mission data as well as video data were successfully recovered.

This experience was amazing, in just few days three different groups (4 persons each) designed, developed, tested, launched and analyzed mission data from CanSats.

Then we started the second project. A CanSat come back mission. Much more difficult that the first one. We had three weeks to develop the mission. In fact we finished and tested the full hardware for our Navi CanSat. In addition we completed the validation of both hardware and software required to drive every hardware item included in CanSat.

The instrumentation integration for this Navi CanSat was not so complex. However, the tough aspect was to perform the mission requirements in order to provide capabilities to the CanSat to operate autonomously to reach a physical target. The last would be reached either by air operations or by land navigation. So the difficult task was to integrate enough hardware resources and drive them together to reach a suitable solution for the come-back mission.

In this project we tested two approaches. The first one a paraglide control phase where Navi CanSat would steer paraglide strings with a servomechanism to control the CanSat flight after being released from the rocket launcher. Our team worked a lot to accomplish this working phase, however, after several tests in laboratory, launchings from the University buildings, and few launchings from balloon, it was decided to quit this approach because no physical paraglide control was obtained. Though, not everything was bad, we opted to relay only in the CanSat rover operation. Besides, we gained important room inside the CanSat when we had to remove the servomechanism employed to control the paraglide. In this way we developed another CanSat structure, simpler and lighter than previous one. Furthermore, we did enough room to integrate a sonar sensor used to detect and avoid obstacles.

The final instrumentation was as follows: Aluminum Structure, 3 wheels (left, right and stabilization tail), 2 servomechanisms, GPS, sonar sensor, atmospheric pressure sensor, accelerometers, stand-alone digital video camera, XBee wireless transceiver and 2 sets of batteries (one for parachute string cutting circuit and one for electronics). The ground station segment (GSS) was formed by a laptop computer with Google Earth Software (GES), hyperterminal software and an XBee transceiver for wireless communications among Navi CanSat and GSS.

The CanSat navigation to the target was enabled by the use of a GPS, navigation software (wheel driving software) as well as by obstacle detection algorithms. All this approaches were tested at subsystem level and they performed very well.

The rover validation tests performed at Wakayama University showed that we were able to remote follow the Navi CanSat with GES employing satellite images of the campus. Therefore, this solution can be used in any part of the world and the CanSat will be followed with good quality GES satellite images.

In order to control this Navi CanSat mission, it was also required important software to drive CanSat wheels not only to move ahead but also for making turnings either to the left or right whenever obstacles were detected.

This experience was fabulous, and it took just three weeks. During this time, we slept very few hours to develop both projects, but it worth it a lot.

By instance, this type of experience in the small satellite field can take even few years to get the project done. And even after that time it is not sure that good results will be obtained with the mission. In addition, small satellite projects are not cheaper and are not so fast to be developed (specially for newcomers). That is why this CLTP program is fantastic. Actually, it reminded me the project I participated as young Engineer at Utah State University (USU), Logan, Utah, USA, in 1985-86, where a team of 12 Mexicans worked at USU for 7 months to develop Automatic Space Experiments to be flown in the NASA's Space Shuttle. For that project it took us 7 months of work to see similar results to these seen in Wakayama for CLTP program.

Also would like to mention that CLTP program allowed all of us to receive in addition more experiences from other teams of the program. Making continuous technical presentations such as: preliminary design reviews, design reviews and final reviews were very important to have experiences and technical feedbacks different from those gained within each team. Besides, the delivery of daily reports was a very good way to organize the team work as well as to support the project management.

Furthermore, the international environment of the program was extraordinary. I find this environment only comparable with those experiences that people get at the International Space University. Therefore I feel in debt with this program, with organizers, with authorities of Wakayama University, the Government of Japan as well as with every colleague that participated in this program and which in different forms allowed me to gain more experiences at different levels (technical, cultural, friendship and so on).

Vision for the Future

Will take this experience to offer similar training program in about 20 Universities which manage some type or Aeronautic or Aerospace programs in Mexico. The idea will be first to provide this training to lecturers from referred Universities. And then they will teach the same course to their students. During this process will make arrangements with some institutions to establish a National CanSat Contest. This contest will be expected to take place in 2012 and the idea will be to provide support to the winners to get them to participate in CanSat International Contest.

This program will be of importance to México, because it will allow to complement the academic formation of young future Engineers. It will also complement the responsibility of the Mexican Space Agency (under formation) to participate in the generation and motivation of young human resources in the Aerospace and more generally in the TI field all over the country.