Theses and Internships

This page contains theses and intership available at the Microsatellites and Space Microsystems Laboratory. Please check the correct field (L/LM and Thesis/Intership) before contacting the referee

Laurea Triennale (BSc)

ATTITUDE DETERMINATION AND CONTROL SYSTEM (ADCS)

Attitude determination and control software development and experimental testing on real-time platform

Attitude determination and control algorithms must be verified by means of numerical simulations. However, for the experimental testing, the software developed in the environment such as Matlab/Simulink must translated into efficient embedded code. Dedicated software solutions can make the process faster thanks to real-time platforms/Matlab integration.

Through the thesis work, the candidate will:

  • Develop satellites control software in Simulink.
  • Study the Raspberry microcontroller / Simulink integration.
  • Experimentally test the developed software.

Number of students required: 1 bachelor student.

Requirements:

  • Attended and passed: Controlli Automatici
  • Attending ‘Satelliti e Missioni Spaziali’

3D printed air bearing for ADCS testing

The 3D printing techlogy becomes more capable. One of possible usage is rapid prototyping, for ad hoc mechnical parts production. In our laboratory, experimental testing involves different satellites and mechnical designs.

As part of the project, following tasks will be done:

  • Study of 3D printing technologies in combination with CNC and CAD.
  • Study of nanosatellites testing facility design.
  • Testing of developed platforms in distributed attitude control experiments.

 

Number of students required: 1 bachelor student.

Requirements:

  • Attended and passed: Controlli Automatici
  • Attending ‘Satelliti e Missioni Spaziali’

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Algorithms for antenna tracking control

Having the antenna system correctly tracking a satellite, is a key factor in enhancing ground to space communications.

For LEO satellites, antenna pointing needs to change rapidly in order to track the fast-moving spacecrafts. When satellites reach high elevations over the ground station horizon, the tracking error may highly increase due to limited antenna rotor angular velocity, resulting in a decrement of RF link performances.

In this framework, the MicroSatellite and Space MycroSystems Lab is developing its own prediction and tracking software. The software currently implements an open loop antenna control logic.

The objectives of the thesis are:

  • review of the literature about algorithms allowing optimization of antenna tracking performances;
  • implementation of the chosen algorithms in a Python 3 application;
  • test and analysis of the algorithm performances in tracking LEO satellites

Number of students required: 1 bachelor student

Requirements:

  • attended and passed: Controlli Automatici
  • Willingness to learn new programming languages
  • Attending ‘Satelliti e Missioni Spaziali’ and/or attended “Fondamenti di Meccanica Orbitale”

Implementation of test setup for S-band antenna performances evaluation

Alma Mater Ground Station is provided with a 3m dish antenna for communication in S-band frequencies. The antenna has been implemented in order to allow high-rate payloads data download from LEO micro-satellites.

Dish antennas provide high gains as compared to other type of antennas as yaghi or patch antennas, but at the same time require a very precise pointing due to limited beamwidth.

The antenna system has been tested during operations of ESEO missions without success, probably due to high pointing error.

In this framework, the student should implement a test setup aimed at verifying the real-time pointing of the antenna while tracking a LEO satellite. The setup should be implemented by connecting an Inertial Measurement Unit to an Arduino Uno unit installed on the antenna in order to read in real time antenna pointing values.

The main tasks the student is expected to perform are:

  • Familiarize with the basic theories behind antenna tracking and antenna control systems.
  • Familiarize with Arduino programming environment.
  • Implement the algorithms required for converting the IMU measurements into Azimuth-Elevation readings.
  • Define the IMU calibration procedure and the antenna test procedure.
  • Perform the test of the antenna with the implemented set-up while tracking a LEO satellite.
  • Analyse the tests results.

Number of students required: 1 bachelor student.

Requirements:

  • Basic knowledge of at least 1 programming language and willingness to improve it.
  • Attended and passed: Controlli Automatici
  • Attending ‘Satelliti e Missioni Spaziali’ and/or attended “Fondamenti di Meccanica Orbitale”

Applied Study on Optical Communication vs Traditional RF Telecommunication for satellite applications.

This activity is aimed at investigating a novel deep space telecommunication architecture based on an optical link, possibly involving spacecrafts for data relay, to assess its potential advantages with respect to a classical space-to-Earth direct link and to define a technology roadmap towards exploitation of this architecture in future deep space missions.

The student will be asked to explore the optical communication characteristics, defining the requirements of the application of this technology and method to the satellite communication. The student will then apply the results to a case study of a data relay telecommunication architecture, assessing the quality of the link and the feasibility of a deep space optical link.

Number of students required: 1 bachelor student.

Requirements:

  • Basic knowledge of Matlab
  • Attending "Satelliti e missioni spaziali”

COLLISION AVOIDANCE – SPACE DEBRIS

Simulation Manoeuvre framework for a satellite

Space is becoming crowded and we are studying how to reliably predict collisions between satellites.

The most powerful tool we have to assess our strategies is computer simulation, e.g. Montecarlo.

For this reason, we are studying a simulator able to calculate collision probability given user defined starting conditions. Although we have a general block diagram for this simulator, we would like to study how to implement spacecraft manoeuvre capability in the simulator.

The candidate shall get confident with the spacecraft collision avoidance problem and implement two collision scenarios. In both scenarios collision probability is high enough to justify a manoeuvre, starting from two different initial (uncertain) conditions. The candidate shall develop MATLAB code to propagate a satellite trajectory under impulsive manoeuvre and compute the residual collision probability after manoeuvring (using Montecarlo approach).

Number of students required: 1 bachelor student.

Requirements:

  • Basic programming skills and "Fundament di Informatica" attended and passed.
  • Attending "Satelliti e missioni spaziali” and/or attended “Fondamenti di Meccanica Orbitale”
  • Willingness to learn about statistics.

Comparison of approximate methods for collision probability computation

Space is becoming crowded and we are studying how to reliably predict collisions between satellites. Even though the most powerful tool to assess collision predictions is by extensive numerical simulations, e.g. Monte Carlo, approximate, semi-analytical methods are still in use for fast pre-screening of multiple potential conjunctions. In this activity, the candidate will survey the most widespread methods available in the literature for fast estimation of collision probability. After that, he/she will implement a few of these methods and compare their output for a wide range of parameters. Critical analysis of the results will be performed, and recommendations concerning the relative merits/drawbacks of the methods compared will be drawn.

Number of students required: 1 bachelor student.

Requirements:

  • Attended and passed with good marks mathematics and physics exams
  • Knowledge of Matlab
  • Attending "Satelliti e missioni spaziali"

MACHINE LEARNING

Survey of Deep Learning algorithms for real-time pose estimation

On-orbit servicing and active debris removal missions require an active chaser to capture an uncooperative target. In this context, guidance and control laws shall be fed with information on the relative chaser-to-target pose, which must be estimated autonomously by the chaser. To this end, monocular-vision relative navigation is a viable solution due to its low cost, weight, and power requirements.

From the software side, Deep Learning may enable real-time pose estimation, as it offers shorter inference time compared to classical features-based methods. The pose estimation pipeline is generally divided in several tasks. The thesis activity will be focused on the survey of deep learning methods to perform object detection, keypoint regression, 3D model reconstruction of an unknown target and PnP solvers.

The candidate will be required to provide an analysis of the advantages and drawbacks of the methods in terms of trade-off between accuracy and real-time applicability.

Number of students required: 1 bachelor student.

Requirements:

  • Attended and passed "Fondamenti di Informatica"
  • Attending "Satelliti e missioni spaziali"

CONSTELLATIONS DESIGN

Study of fundamentals of constellations design and preliminary design of innovative small satellites services.

The most complex space missions, involving demanding requirements, are typically addressed and developed using constellations of satellites. A proper design of a constellation allows to cover a wide range of advanced tasks, involving global or local coverage with a defined revisit time.

However, the benefits of a constellation approach are obtained only with high overall mission costs, depending on the number of satellites and orbital planes involved. Modern constellations concepts and services exploits the small satellites philosophy to maintain the high performances with a considerable reduction of the costs.

The students will become familiar with the concepts of orbit design and the fundamentals of constellation sizing and characterization. Th students will be asked to face and solve constellations design problems, with a particular focus on the feasibility of novel small satellites constellations services.

Number of students required: 1 bachelor student.

Requirements:

  • Attended and passed "Fondamenti di Meccanica Orbitale"
  • Attending "Satelliti e missioni spaziali"

 

Contact

Prof. Paolo Tortora

Via Fontanelle 40, 47121 Forlì (FC)

+39 0543 374456

Write an e-mail

Available by appointment.

Prof. Dario Modenini

Via Fontanelle 40, 47121 Forlì (FC)

+39 0543 374 450

Write an e-mail

Available by appointment

Prof. Alfredo Locarini

Via Fontanelle 40, 47121 Forlì (FC)

Write an e-mail

Available by appointment