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Highly accurate, flexible, robust and scalable multicamera system for spacecraft autonomous attitude determination through low cost cameras

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - ARGO (Highly accurate, flexible, robust and scalable multicamera system for spacecraft autonomousattitude determination through low cost cameras)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2020-10-31

The ARGO project addresses the sector of Spacecraft Attitude Determination from star measurements which is a critical element of the Attitude and Orbit Control System (AOCS) for any spacecraft. Nowadays the need of high accuracy for demanding satellite missions is achievable through high-quality star trackers, but high costs and lack of flexibility are still a gap to overcome for covering the needs of emerging space markets, like the ones related to low mass and size satellites, called SmallSats (differentiated by mass in categories such as mini, micro, and nano satellites).
The Consortium, composed by two high tech Italian SMEs (EICAS Automazione, working in spacecraft attitude determination since the 1980s and TYVAK International, a start-up founded in 2015 by dynamic entrepreneurs with strong aerospace industry backgrounds and extensive experience in developing, producing and operating SmallSats) intend to pave the way towards next generation star tracker systems by proposing a disruptive innovation for this sector: ARGO, an innovative multicamera system for spacecraft autonomous attitude determination by means of star observation, able to offer high flexibility, robustness, accuracy, scalability and significant reduction of production costs compared to products currently on the market.
The purpose of this project is to accomplish the following steps necessary for fully exploiting the ARGO potential and reaching the commercialisation stage:
• from the scientific/technical point of view, to bring the ARGO technology readiness level up to TRL9, by developing a system that is completed and "flight qualified" through significant tests and demonstrations, both ground and flight In-Orbit Demonstrations (IOD) - ready for post-project production and commercialisation in the SmallSats market segment,
• from the business point of view, to take the necessary actions with end-users and relevant stakeholders to accelerate and maximise the impact of the proposed disruptive innovation and to actuate the Consortium business strategy to reach the market.
The fourth reporting period was largely affected by COVID 19 pandemic and experienced a 5 months of suspension. Despite that, the Consortium was able to sucessfully conclude the project producing the following results:
• ARGO 1.0 F.M. (Flight Model) - qualification tests campaign (Vibe, TVAC, radiation and shock) - ARGO assessed up to TRL8 (WP6)
• ARGO 1.0 F.M. (Flight Model) - Overall MAIT (Manufacturing, Assembly Integration and Testing) Process Rationalisation (WP6)
• New improved optical bench for calibration of ARGO cameras (WP5)
• In Orbit Demonstration - Mission selection and requirements (WP6/WP7)
• In Orbit Demonstration - ARGO 1.0 F.M. (Flight Model) - Integration in the Mission Prime Platform (WP6)
• In Orbit Demonstration - operations plan and procedures (WP6)
• Additional user needs and Advisory Board involvement (WP7)
• Dissemination Plan, Dissemination Material, Dissemination and Communication Actions (WP7)
• Review of Consortium strategy to fully maximise the overall business opportunities (WP7)

The Consortium confirms the plan for exploitation and dissemination of results as described in DoA. Especially, during the fourth reporting period, the Consortium devoted special care to exploitation, communication and dissemination activities as a part of Tasks 7.1 Task 7.2 and 7.3 of WP7. Close to the Project End - and therefore to ARGO launch on the market - the Innovation Managers paid a paramount attention to develop a detailed exploitation plan, as described in D7.7 "Business Plan release 2". This document was used to present the entrepreneurial project to potential investors, willing to finance the next ARGO commercialization phase.
Three additional financing were also pursued and achieved through 3 applications to regional grants, aiming to develop complementary technologies around the results achieved during the ARGO Project.
In parallel, a new IOD opportunity was secured through the award of a development contract in the frame of the ESA Competitiveness and Growth programme.
Despite the fact that the activities of communication and dissemination through international events were largely affected by the pandemic of COVID-19, the Consortium managed to exploit the new available webinars to continue such activities at the best.
Currently the “accurate and time invariant” cameras for star observation are the first item of expenditure in star trackers, while ARGO reaches equal or better performance making use of cameras without specific metrological characteristics. So we claim to pave the way towards next-generation star tracker systems, featuring flexibility for different application fields, higher measure precision, robustness, longer operative life and a significant reduction of production cost. The expected final outcome is 1) to directly produce and commercialise ARGO 1.0 in the emerging SmallSats market and 2) to establish strategic alliances (e.g. with large EU star tracker producers) to catch the overall market&business opportunities, especially, to spread ARGO innovation also in the medium/large Sats market.
ARGO Project Logo
ARGO 1.0 Brochure - page 2
ARGO 1.0 E.M. Demonstrator
ARGO 1.0 Brochure - page 1