A Good Day for Star Trackers

posted Mar 22, 2021, 6:38 PM by Doug Sinclair   [ updated Mar 25, 2021, 8:20 PM ]

Lots of launches today!  Astroscale's ELSA-d and MBRSC's DMSat-1 were launched on a Soyuz.  ELSA-d is a debris-removal demonstrator, using two ST-16RT2 star trackers.  DMSat-1 is an optical remote sensing mission, using one ST-16RT2 star trackers and three RW3-0.06 reaction wheels.

A few hours later, an Electron launched the Blacksky Global-9 satellite.  This has two more ST-16RT2 star trackers, along with four RW3-0.06 reaction wheels.

Finally, the kick stage of this Electron is configured as the Pathstone Photon satellite, with a further two more ST-16RT2 and three RW3-0.06.   

VEGA returns to flight

posted Sep 3, 2020, 7:09 AM by Doug Sinclair   [ updated Sep 3, 2020, 9:37 AM ]

We are very happy to see that the VEGA launcher has successfully returned to flight.  Yesterday's launch carried NEMO-HD and GHGSat-C1, with a total of three of our star trackers and eight of our reaction wheels.  GHGSat-C1 also carries our first demonstration laser downlink terminal.

ÑuSat 6 carries four more reaction wheels, built under license to our design by our friends at Satellogic.

SkySat Complete (for now)

posted Aug 19, 2020, 4:34 AM by Doug Sinclair

Yesterday, SkySat-19, -20 and -21 launched onboard a Falcon-9 Starlink flight.  This marks the conclusion of a long journey.  SkySat-1, back in 2013, carried the very first Sinclair Interplanetary ST-16 star tracker.  From SkySat-3 onwards, they also carry reaction wheels and magnetic torque rods designed by Sinclair Interplanetary.

We have also watched a little startup company called Skybox Imaging become Terra Bella, become Google, become Planet.  We are excited to see where they go next.

Smallsat 2020

posted Aug 1, 2020, 7:26 AM by Doug Sinclair

None of us will be travelling to Utah this August.  The team is all safely masked and distant in the Toronto lab.  But we will be there in spirit, supporting our Rocket Lab colleagues online.

Sinclair Interplanetary will be hosting Zoom chats Monday to Thursday, 12 to 6 PM ET.  See the Smallsat website for links.  We'd love for you to all come by and hang out on our virtual Smallsat exhibit couch.

Alternatively, you may book a 1-on-1 meeting here.

Help Wanted

posted Apr 23, 2020, 7:23 AM by Doug Sinclair   [ updated Aug 1, 2020, 7:16 AM ]

We are looking for an Accountant and Office Manager for the Toronto lab.  If this is of interest, please see the Rocket Lab posting here.

Edit: In mid-July we welcomed Lorena as our new Office Manager.  We are very excited to have her onboard.

Strange Days

posted Mar 23, 2020, 4:39 PM by Doug Sinclair   [ updated Mar 24, 2020, 6:44 AM ]

Today we looked through our strategic reserves, and donated more than a thousand nitrile gloves to the local hospital.

We have been told that non-essential businesses must close tomorrow at midnight.  But the list of what is and is not essential will not be released until some time tomorrow.  I expect some last-minute scurrying either way.

Edit: It looks like we are essential after all.  We will keep all of our equipment running, but drop down to the barest of skeleton crews.  Only one person is allowed in any single room in the lab.

Moving up to Bigger Things

posted Mar 16, 2020, 1:05 PM by Doug Sinclair

I have signed an agreement to sell Sinclair Interplanetary to Rocket Lab.  I will stay on in an engineering role, and I look forward to spending more time in the lab as others take over the day-to-day running of the business.

It's a good strategic fit for everybody.  Rocket Lab gets access to Sinclair components for its Photon platform.  Sinclair Interplanetary gets access to Rocket Lab's scale to help us build for larger constellations.

A nice round number

posted Feb 20, 2020, 11:41 AM by Doug Sinclair

A quiet milestone was reached some months ago, and has only just been tallied up.  Doug Sinclair has now built hardware for exactly 100 satellites that have launched from the Earth's surface.  A small handful of that count are launch failures, but most made it into orbit!

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!]

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