Another 2 Star Trackers On Orbit

posted Dec 6, 2019, 9:27 AM by Doug Sinclair

ALE 2 launched today, on Rocket Labs' 10th Electron vehicle.  It carries two more Sinclair Interplanetary star trackers, bringing our total in space up to 57.

This brief video shows the spacecraft, with the two star trackers mounted to the top surface.  Each aperture is covered with a remove-before-flight baffle cap.

RW4-1.0 GEO Wheels Use Less Power

posted Nov 30, 2019, 9:52 AM by Doug Sinclair

The first RW4-1.0 reaction wheels are getting ready to ship out.  This is an evolution of the earlier RW3-1.0 wheel, built rad-hard and intended for long-duration GEO missions.  Recent vacuum testing confirms that the power consumption of this wheel is greatly reduced compared to its predecessor:
  • At 0.2 Nms momentum, power is 1.4 W instead of 2.4 W
  • At 1.0 Nms momentum, power is 5.3 W instead of 15.1 W
  • Torque is +/- 100 mNm instead of +/- 50 mNm
This wheel will run cooler, and give the satellite greater agility, than ever before.  We can expect that, after successful flight demonstration, the RW4-1.0 will make the older RW3-1.0 model obsolete.

[For those who are interested: in this revision of the motor design I paid careful attention to the fringing magnetic fields from the rotor.  Where possible, aluminum radiation shielding in high field areas was removed and replaced with carbon-loaded PTFE.  Where the aluminum was required for thermal reasons, it was covered with a thin layer of high permeability nickel-iron alloy.  The skin depth in this alloy is very small, and prevents eddy-current formation in the aluminum substrate.  That's all it took to reduce the drag losses to 1/3 of their original values!]

Free to a good home: BGA-100 Microscope

posted Oct 8, 2019, 12:13 PM by Doug Sinclair   [ updated Oct 9, 2019, 11:02 AM ]

We now have a surplus BGA optical inspection microscope.  Let us know if you want it!

Edit: Snapped up within hours.


posted Aug 10, 2019, 6:25 AM by Doug Sinclair

Another successful Smallsat conference has come and gone.  We are indebted to the organizers and volunteers who continue to make this the most important event in our calendar every year.

Our paper on scaling up for mass manufacture is available in the conference proceedings, and also here.  Thanks to Julia Gibson for the very well received presentation.


posted Jul 24, 2019, 6:23 PM by Doug Sinclair   [ updated Jul 26, 2019, 5:18 AM ]

We are very glad to see the amazing pictures of the successful solar sail deployment on the LightSail 2 Cubesat.

Sinclair Interplanetary built the momentum wheel for this project.  It is a custom 60 mNm-sec unit, with the motor specially wound to achieve full speed with only a 7 V power input.

Free to a Good Home: DC/DC Converter ICs

posted Jul 11, 2019, 9:01 AM by Doug Sinclair

We build radiation-tolerant hardware, meaning that we buy industrial/automotive ICs and then lot-screen them for radiation performance.  Sometimes parts pass, sometimes they fail.  When they fail, we're left with a lot-buy of scrap.

Over on the Free to a Good Home page we have a set of DC/DC converters (components and dev kits) that failed 50 krad TID testing.  If you have a use for them, please let us know!

We had two other lots that passed the test, and that inventory we will retain.

Offerings to the god of Laser Power

posted Jun 21, 2019, 7:50 AM by Doug Sinclair   [ updated Jun 21, 2019, 7:52 AM ]

Burt Munro famously kept a shelf of burned motorcycle pistons with the label "Offerings to the god of speed".  In that vein, here are just a few of the MEMS fine-steering mirrors that we have destroyed in the development of the Darkstar laser downlink terminal.  Unsurprisingly, optical power must be massively derated when working in vacuum.

NSP Software Library

posted Jan 12, 2019, 8:25 AM by Doug Sinclair

NSP is the software protocol used by equipment made by Sinclair Interplanetary, the Space Flight Laboratory, the Deep Space Industries (now Brandford Space) Comet propulsion system, and possibly others.  Robin Lilja has kindly posted his NSP software library here under a BEER-WARE license.

30 mNms Wheels for Immediate Sale

posted Jan 11, 2019, 5:51 AM by Doug Sinclair   [ updated Apr 9, 2019, 8:05 AM ]

We have four brand new 30 mNms reaction wheels on the shelf, available for sale.  Details here.  They were built for a customer who sadly had to back out of their order.  The wheels are currently configured for ASYNC interface, but can be changed to I2C by a simple code load.

Edit April 2019: These parts have been sold.

Remembering Tim May

posted Dec 15, 2018, 5:03 PM by Doug Sinclair

I note with sadness the recent death of Tim May, reported here and here.  Before I was a spacecraft engineer I was a Cypherpunk, and Tim was at the core of it all.

During his time at Intel, he discovered the source of Single-Event Upsets (SEUs) in DRAM as alpha particles from natural radioactivity in the IC ceramic packages.  This contribution is deeply relevant to all of us in the space community today.

I will mostly remember him for taking me aside at an early Computer, Freedom and Privacy conference to tell me that my jacket with a dozen pockets stuffed with tech, which young me thought was desperately 1337 and tactical, looked kinda goofy.  I don't think I ever wore it again.  In certain circles, Tim was the arbiter of cool.

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