Ancillary Scientific Instrument Attachment (ASIA):  A Distributed Hitchhiker Payload Carrier

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Virginia Tech


As more spacecraft reach more locations in the solar system, and with increasing residual capability of those spacecraft, an opportunity exists to improve scientific return at low cost to the satellite operator and minimal effect on its primary mission, regardless of the nature of that mission. The practicality of permanently attaching a small, mass-produced, non-deployable hitchhiker payload to modern spacecraft buses is investigated, and a case study of one such payload is presented. The Ancillary Scientific Instrument Attachment (ASIA) is a modified CubeSat bus that can be mass produced, independently tested, and delivered to spacecraft manufacturers with the design, analysis, integration, test, and software development already complete. All it requires are single-string power and data connections, and a location to mount the bus structure. The unit includes power regulation; data collection and storage; command processing; thermal control; and structural support. As many as five small scientific instruments can be included, all of which increase scientific value of the host spacecraft's primary mission without significantly interfering with that mission. Generally, ASIA would operate independently, with a minimum of interaction from the host spacecraft operations team; only routine data dumps for scientific return need be executed. Scientific data processing, distribution, and bus subsystem troubleshooting are offloaded to an independent facility. One possible scientific instrument loadout is described, designed to collect data about the space environment at any location in the solar system. Recommended forward steps for designing, testing, demonstrating, and implementing such a space-based system and its ground elements are presented.



hosted, space, science, payload