Project Svarog - BEXUS cycle 15

Project Svarog, a pioneering student-led initiative at Imperial College London, has set its sights on redefining the possibilities of interstellar travel through solar sailing technology. The project aims to revolutionize spacecraft propulsion by leveraging solar sailing—a clean, sustainable, and cost-effective approach to interstellar travel. Project Svarog is highly multi-disciplinary and composed of around 30 members, mostly undergraduate students, some postgraduate students and the support of a few academics at Imperial College London. During the last two years, the team has published a peer reviewed paper on the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society and presented at the International Solar Sailing Symposium 2023 in New York.



Recently, Project Svarog was accepted into Cycle 15 of the BEXUS programme(BX34), financed by the Swedish National Space Agency (SNSA), German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the European Space Agency (ESA). This initiative provides the opportunity for student teams to conduct scientific experiments in near-vacuum conditions by allocating teams a spot in the gondola of a high-altitude stratospheric balloon. The BEXUS experiment, is a crucial part of Project Svarog's long term mission, as it will allow us to investigate the dynamics of membrane deployment for the design of future solar sailing missions. The primary objectives of the BEXUS experiment are therefore to demonstrate the deployment of a large-scale membrane in near vacuum conditions, record the deployment dynamics for comparison against the numerical models, strong> develop a dimensional scaling law applicable to a wide range of membrane sizes. The BEXUS experiment is poised to yield invaluable data for future space missions in a cost-effective manner. Conducting such experiments would typically require access to vacuum chambers of significant scale, making them challenging for students. BEXUS provides a unique opportunity for validating the deployment system and gathering data in near vacuum conditions. The following image is the preliminary design of our experiment proposal:



Regarding the electronics of the experiment's payload, the team is planning to design and manufacture some customs PCBs, the most relevant are the Main Processing Board (MPB), Power Distribution Unit (PDU) and Thermal Board (TB).

 

Power Distribution Unit

As the name indicated this board will deliver the correct level of power to each of the parts of the payload. The BEXUS gondola provides each experiment with 28V, the PDU takes these and regulates them down to 24V, 12V and 5V to use on the motors, heating and MPB respectively. Additionally, this board has a current sensor in each of the voltage lines to monitor the consumption of each line and help troubleshoot if necessary. These output an analog voltage signal that is read by and ADC which then communicates with the Main MPU of the MPB. The board will be a 4 layer PCB around 80 by 50 mm.



Main Processing Board

This board will oversee the communication between the ground segment and the experiment, send regular telemetry, trigger the deployment of the sail, record the deployment of the sail and regulate the thermal loops (via the thermal board). It will contain a Raspberry pi model 3 B as the main MPU with an additional 4 Raspberry pi zeros to record. These raspberry pi zeros will all have a camera each and record and store the footage of the sail. This will be a 4-layer PCB and the dimensions and layout are yet to be defined.

 

 

Thermal Board

This board will be aiding the monitoring and control of 6 independent heating loops, most of these will be for the cameras which are outside the balloon and will be exposed to extremely low temperatures. In essence, this board is a series of 6 load switches to control each of the heating lines and an ADC to obtain analog readings from each of the temperature sensors. This board will be a 2-layer PCB of around 50 by 40 mm, mounted on the MPB and with 12 board-to-wire connectors:



Apart from the aforementioned PCBs, the team also plans to make custom small sensor boards and interconnects.

 

As a student-lead team we are constantly seeking funding, partnerships and collaborations to help us bring our projects to life. The support of PCBWay would be invaluable for the realisation of Project Svarog’s BEXUS experiment as it would provide us with a more affordable way to quickly iterate our designs and help us achieve a higher quality set of flight model electronics. All members of the team would gain large amounts of hands-on experience which would ultimately benefit the Project Svarog’s goal of developing and investigating the future of sustainable space propulsion.

 

 

 

To find more and keep up with our progress find us on LinkedIn:

https://uk.linkedin.com/company/project-svarog-icl

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Feb 18,2024
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