Sensonor supplies IMUs for NASA’s Raven and asteroid Scout

August 26, 2016  - By

082913novatel-stim300-TSensonor AS is partnering with NASA to supply current and future low- and near-Earth orbit space missions with inertial and gyroscope modules.

The Norway-based company first began supplying its standard inertial measurement unit (IMU) and gyroscope modules for low Earth orbit (LEO) space applications in 2012, beginning with the launch of the NASA-sponsored AeroCube-4 satellite. Sensonor’s STIM300 and STIM210 inertial products are now a standard part in many spacecraft similar to the AeroCube-4.

Current NASA projects using STIM inertial systems include the Raven technology demonstration and Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout.

Raven, which launches to the International Space Station in September, will test key elements of an autonomous relative navigation system. Its technologies may one day help future robotic spacecraft autonomously and seamlessly rendezvous with other objects in motion, such as a satellite in need of fuel or a tumbling asteroid.

The concept image above shows the NEA Scout CubeSat with its solar sail deployed as it characterizes a near-Earth asteroid. (NASA)

The concept image above shows the NEA Scout CubeSat with its solar sail deployed as it characterizes a near-Earth asteroid. (NASA)

The NEA Scout is a robotic reconnaissance mission that will be deployed to fly by and return data from an asteroid representative of NEAs.

NASA, in conjunction with the Aerospace Corp., spearheaded the use of STIM products in space, and many other commercial launch and satellite companies have since followed NASA’s lead. In fact, more than 30 companies around the world use Sensonor inertial products in various space applications, with several satellites successfully flying with STIM gyroscope modules for over three years.

The STIM gyroscope modules are often used in combination with GPS or a Star Tracker and Kalman Filter to orient and stabilize the satellite, as well as to provide feedback on satellite motion induced by its reaction wheels. In some applications, the gyroscopes are used to stabilize satellite- to-satellite communications.

Being a supplier illustrates the trust NASA and others place in Sensonor, further solidifying the company’s role in this market. “We look forward to continuing to serve the international space community with our inertial offerings as standard commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products. By serving the space market on equal terms with our other customers, we can help to reduce the cost of manufacturing and launching space payloads,” said Hans-Richard Petersen, Sensonor’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Our STIM products are the lowest size, weight, and power for their performance level in the market, with 5 to 10 times lower weight than the next-best alternative with similar performance. This makes them a very cost-effective and attractive solution.”

Sensonor will continue to improve its gyroscope module and IMU product performance and features, and is actively working with the space community to enhance its standard commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) parts. Following the tremendous interest from the space community, Sensonor has initiated a space-optimized version of its STIM gyro module.