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Orbit Overview
An orbit is a path of motion for one object around another object repetitively. Objects in
an orbit will begin at one point and follows the orbit path until it returns back to the starting
point. This motion will continue to repeat until it stops based on the desired conditions or other
surrounding factors. To make an example, Sun is the center of orbit for all planets in our solar
system. Each planet has their own orbit and those orbits will not coincide with one another
because each of them has unique characteristics and parameters. All planets in our solar system
are natural satellites that will move around the Sun repeatedly near the orbital plane with respect
to their own orbit while rotating with respect to their body center. There are also satellites made
by human that stays in orbit motion. They were being sent out into space to perform specified
missions and tasks. Every satellite will move according to their orbit and the design of the orbit
should be suitable for assigned missions.
There are parameters which will determine the orbital characteristics such as shape, size,
inclination, maximum and minimum altitude, and etc. Those parameters were known as Orbital
Elements. Each orbit will have their specific orbital elements depending on the desired design
requirements. Normally, there are 6 orbital elements for each orbit as shown in the table below:




Semi Major Axis





Tilt angle from

unit vector to
specified angular
momentum vector

Right Ascension of
Ascending Node

Argument of

True Anomaly

Swivel, angle from

vernal equinox to
ascending node
Angle form
ascending node to
Angle from perigee
to the spacecrafts

Depends on the
conic section
e = 0 (circle)
0 < e < 1 (ellipse)
e =1 (parabola)
e > 1 (hyperbola)


0 i 180

0 360

When i = 0 or
180 degree

0 360

When i = 0 or
180 degree or e
= 0 (circular)

0 360

When e = 0
(circular orbit)

Table 1 : Orbital elements definition

Types of Orbits
There are hundred types of orbit exists in the solar system. Different orbit has different
attributes and serves different purposes. Below are some examples of orbits with their attributes:

Heliocentric - An orbit around the Sun. In the Solar System, all planets, comets, and


asteroids are in such orbits.

Geocentric - An orbit around the planet Earth. Moon and artificial satellites are in this


type of orbit.
Geostationary - A circular geosynchronous orbit with an inclination of zero. To an


observer on the ground this satellite appears as a fixed point in the sky.
Geosynchronous - An orbit around the Earth with a period equal to one sidereal day,
which is the Earth's average rotational period of 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.091 seconds.


For a nearly circular orbit, this implies an altitude around 35000 kilometers.
Sun-synchronous - An orbit which the satellite passes over any given point of the
planet's surface at the same local solar time. Such an orbit can place a satellite in


constant sunlight and is useful for imaging, spy, and weather satellites.
Polar - An orbit which has an inclination near 90 degrees. This allows the satellite to see
virtually every part of the Earth as the Earth rotates underneath it.

Satellite Missions
Satellites will be designed based on criteria which will fulfill their missions. Different
satellite serves different missions and purposes. It will determine which orbit should be used,
what subsystems are needed, what payloads are required, expected life span of satellite and etc.
Hence, it is important to know the general type of satellite missions that are available.

Communication satellites or normally known as Comsat are used in space for

telecommunication purposes. Geostationary orbit type is useful for this mission. The satellite
appears to be stationary from the ground at one point and therefore, ground antennas can be
aimed to the satellite at all times. This will reduce the operational costs since it does not need to
track the satellite position at any time. However, geostationary orbit operates around the equator.
For countries located in the very north or south latitude, they will have poor signal on
geostationary satellites. Therefore, since Russia is located on the north part, they created Molniya
orbit to encounter this problem. Molniya orbit has a high eccentricity (almost 0.7) and high
inclination type of orbit. It provides a good elevation and access time during the north part of the
The level and quality of education is one of the most significant parameters for
development of any Nation. The purpose of education is not only to train people for specific
employment role, but rather to train them to cope their lives in the discipline, intelligence and
will. Satellites can establish the connectivity between urban educational institutions with
adequate infrastructure imparting quality education and the large number of rural and semi-urban
educational institutions that lack the necessary infrastructure. Education satellites lack any of the
other payloads and serve mainly to train students or young engineers and improve the satellitebuilding capabilities of that particular program. Typical educational payloads include COTS
imagers (low-resolution Earth imagery), on-board telemetry, and beacon communications. Many
CubeSat mission statements claim that the spacecraft will be collecting valuable science or
engineering data; however, if the performance of the flight instrument could not be traced back
to quantifiable science or technology objectives, the mission was considered to be E-class.

Colloquially, E-class spacecraft are sometimes called BeepSats, indicating that they serve no
on-orbit function other than beeping back telemetry.
There are various kinds of scientific satellites. Among these are scientific research, land
and sea observation, weather and navigation satellites. All of these are of significant importance
throughout the world. Certain satellites are important for scientific research. These satellites
gather data for scientific analysis. This includes observations of the atmosphere of our planet, the
stars, the sun and other parts of space. Scientific satellites are not restricted to earth orbits, they
also orbit the sun, moon, and other planets. Observation satellites help to observe many features
of the earth's surface. Oberright states, "Scientists use earth observation satellites to locate
mineral deposits, to determine the location and size of freshwater supplies and to detect the
spread of disease in crops and forests"(150b). Weather satellites are one of the most important
instrumentation used to predict the weather. The photos of these satellites "locate weather
features--storm systems, fronts, upper-level wind direction and speeds--that are characterized by
certain cloud formations"(Charyk 87). Navigation satellites allow the operators of land vehicles,
ships, and aircraft to determine their locations within 100 feet anywhere on earth. These vehicles
all have on board a computerized receiver which can pick up radio signals from satellites miles
in space. This enables the computers to pinpoint the vehicle's location.
Remote Sensing
Earth observation satellites are the satellites equipped with remote sensing technology.
Various sensors are equipped on these satellites in accordance with their respective missions.
Remote sensing refers to the activities of recording/observing/perceiving (sensing) objects or

events at far away (remote) places. In remote sensing, the sensors are not in direct contact with
the objects or events being observed. The information needs a physical carrier to travel from the
objects/events to the sensor through an intervening medium. The electromagnetic radiation is
normally used as an information carrier in remote sensing. The output of a remote sensing
system is usually an image representing the scene being observed. A further step of image
analysis and interpretation is required in order to extract useful information from the image.

Size of Satellites
There are many different ways to classify artificial satellites by function, type of orbit,
cost, size, and so forth. Classification by mass is useful because it has a direct bearing on the
launcher vs. cost tradeoff. The table below illustrates a scheme for classifying satellites in terms
of deployed mass that has been generally adopted in recent years. The masses listed refer to inorbit fully-fueled ("wet mass"). Within this scheme the term "small satellite" is used to cover all
spacecrafts with in-orbits masses of less than 500 kg. Particular agencies and organizations may
have their own names for certain categories. For example, small satellites are referred to by the
U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as LightSats, by the U.S. Naval Space
Command as SPINSat's (Single Purpose Inexpensive Satellite Systems), and the U.S. Air Force
as TACSat's (Tactical Satellites).

Mass range (kg)

large satellite

> 1,000

medium-sized satellite











< 0.1

Sputnik-1, the first human made satellite launched

On 4th October 1957, the Soviet Union has successfully launched the first artificial
human-made object into the space. The chief constructor of Sputnik-1 (Russian for Elementary
Satellite-1) was M. S. homyakov.[40] The satellite was a 585-millimetre (23.0 in) diameter
sphere, assembled from two hemispheres which were hermetically sealed using o-rings and
connected using 36 bolts, and had a mass of 83.6 kilograms (184 lb). It has four external radio
antennas to broadcast radio pulses. It was visible all around the Earth and its radio pulses were
detectable. This surprise 1957 success precipitated the American Sputnik crisis and triggered the
Space Race, a part of the larger Cold War. The launch ushered in new political, military,
technological, and scientific developments.
There are five primary scientific objectives of launching Sputnik-1:

To test the method of placing an artificial satellite into Earth orbit.

To provide information on the density of the atmosphere by calculating its lifetime in


To test radio and optical methods of orbital tracking.
To determine the effects of wave propagation through the atmosphere.
To check principles of pressurization used on the satellites.

The control system of the Sputnik rocket was adjusted to an intended orbit of 223 km (139
mi) by 1,450 km (900 mi), with an orbital period of 101.5 min.[52] The trajectory was calculated
earlier by Georgi Grechko,[53] using the USSR Academy of Sciences' mainframe computer.[29]

Orbit designed for Sputnik-1 has semi major axis of 6955.2 km, eccentricity of 0.05201 which is
an almost circular shape and inclination of 65.1 degrees.
Sputnik 1 was launched during the International Geophysical Year from Site No.1/5, at the
5th Tyuratam range, in azakh SSR (now at the Baikonur Cosmodrome). The satellite travelled
at about 29,000 kilometres per hour (18,000 mph; 8,100 m/s), taking 96.2 minutes to complete
each orbit. It transmitted on 20.005 and 40.002 MHz which were monitored by amateur radio
operators throughout the world.The operational duration of this satellite is 92 days where it
decays on 4th January 1958.

A CubeSat is a type of miniaturized satellite for space research that usually has a volume
of exactly one liter (10 cm cube), has a mass of no more than 1.33 kilograms, and typically uses
commercial off-the-shelf components for its electronics. The primary mission of the CubeSat is

to provide access to space for small payloads and also to provide a standard for design of
picosatellites to reduce cost and development time, increase accessibility to space, and sustain
frequent launches. The CubeSat reference design was proposed in 1999 by professors Jordi PuigSuari of California Polytechnic State University and Bob Twiggs of Stanford University [3]:159.
The goal was to enable graduate students to be able to design, build, test and operate in space a
spacecraft with capabilities similar to that of the first spacecraft, Sputnik. The CubeSat as
initially proposed did not set out to become a standard; rather, it became a standard over time by
a process of emergence. The first CubeSats were launched in June 2003 on a Russian Eurockot,
and approximately 75 CubeSats have been placed into orbit as of August 2012.[4] The standard
101010 cm basic CubeSat is often called a "one unit" or "1U" CubeSat. CubeSats are scalable
along only one axis, by 1U increments. CubeSats such as a "2U" CubeSat (201010 cm) and a
"3U" CubeSat (301010 cm) have been both built and launched. In recent years larger CubeSat
platforms have been proposed, most commonly 6U (10x20x30 cm or 12x24x36 cm[13]) and 12U
(20x20x30 cm or 24x24x36 cm[13]), to extend the capabilities of CubeSats beyond academic
and technology validation applications and into more complex science and defense goals.

Payload for Remote Sensing Cubesats

A CubeSat, like other spacecraft, can be divided into multiple smaller subsystems
including Power, Communication, On board data handling, Attitude determination & control as
well as a satellite payload subsystems. The payload determines the actual mission and objective
of the CubeSat. Most CubeSats carry one or two scientific instruments as their mission payload.
Typical remote sensing satellite will have camera as a payload option, enabling researchers to
take images of the earth and space for various applications. There are many types of cameras that
can be integrated into a CubeSat depending mainly on the application they are to be used for.
Due to mass, power and bandwidth constraints small low resolution CCD or CMOS cameras are
generally used in CubeSats.
Small sized low resolution CCD or CMOS imaging sensors and camera modules are
generally used in cubeSats for imaging applications. Both the types of cameras have their pros
and cons. For example, it has been observed that CCD sensors generally consume more power as
compared to CMOS cameras. Similarly, data retrieval mechanism differs in CCD and CMOS.

Data can be fetched quicker in CCD but that data is more prone to errors. On the other hand,
CCD technology is more mature than CMOS which is still an evolving technique. There is no
hard and fast rule which technology is better suited for space missions; however certain
parameters need to be kept in mind while selecting a camera. These are the reliability of the
imaging module, the resolution of the camera and also the speed at which the image is taken. In
cubeSats however, the trend is more towards CMOS as they consume less power and can be used
for longer time in space as our requirement is to use the camera in cubeSat in space.
Commercial Cubesat Cameras
Here we will briefly discuss various cameras that have either been used in some cubeSat
or have the potential to be used in future cubeSats. We will list the advantages and disadvantages
of these camera units according to mission requirements. This might help future cubeSat
developers in selecting a camera for their mission.
A. IDS UI- 1646LE USB 1.3 Megapixel
IDS UI- 1646LE USB 1.3 Megapixel colored CMOS camera is robust, compact and
industry proven camera designed by uEye industrial camera family [4]. With the help of USB 2.0
interface, this camera can easily be mounted to wide range of systems with no interfacing issues.
USB uEye LE is an extremely compact series of cameras well suited for cost sensitive
applications. This camera has already been used in MCUBED cubeSat project [5], which is a 1U
cubeSat project initiated by small group of students from Michigan State University, USA. The
key objective of MCUBED project was to capture high resolution color images of earth from
LEO [5]. To achieve the objective, imaging payload subsystem consisted of this camera and as
well as a planoconvex lens which is rigidly mounted inside cubeSat whose focal length is

adjusted in such a way that it gives earth resolution of 200-meter per pixel. 1646LE CMOS
camera is a board level camera that supports the use of M12 S-mount lenses and gives the
resolution of 1280 by 1024 array with the capability of 25 frames per second. Camera takes the
image and then saves it into Colibri PXA270 microprocessor. Each pixel is of 8-bits. The image
is then compressed by the factor of 10 using JPEG compression algorithms before transmittal to
ground. It has a pixel size of 3.6 m3.6m. This camera is powered by both on-board small
Polymer Li-ION batteries and solar arrays placed on every side of cubeSat. A microcontroller
processes these images and then sends them to telemetry system for its transmittal to ground
station. MCUBED orbit is controlled by passive altitude control system and its orientation is
specified with respect to earths magnetic field.

B. C3188A
C3188A is a small sized 1/3 color camera module providing digital output. This camera
module is comprised of CMOS image sensor OV7620. It can be used for good quality video and
still image applications. The digital video port supplies a continuous 8/16 bit-wide image data
stream. All the necessary camera functions like gamma correction, exposure, gain, white balance,

color matrix and windowing can be programmed through I2C interface by writing into simple
registers [6]. This camera can also be interfaced with PC based applications by using OV511+
USB controller chip. The video output can be expressed in different formats like RGB, YCbCr
and GRB. C3188a camera module is most commonly used in Video conferencing, PC
multimedia, Machine Vision and Still and Video image based embedded applications. It has a
pixel size of 7.6 m7.6 m [7]. This camera has been used in ITU-pSAT-1 which is a first
student-designed pico-satellite of Turkey launched in November 2009 [8]. The satellite carried
two experimental payloads; a low resolution camera with on-board image preprocessing and
passive magnetic stabilization with a magnetic rod accompanied by a sensor board to examine its
performance. The main objective of this project was to test a CMOS imager and obtain the
information on the passive magnetic stability of their satellite attitude through sensing hardware
[8]. To achieve the objective, imaging payload subsystem consisted of C3188A low resolution
CMOS camera. It consumed very less power. This camera has also been used in Tokyo
University cubeSat X1-IV. We tried this camera for ICUBE-1 but faced certain interfacing and
synchronization issues that decreased the reliability of the imaging subsystem.

C. PC67XC-2 CCD Color Camera

PC67XC-2 CCD Color Camera has been developed by the company super circuits. It has
a description of 1/3 interline transfer color code CCD. It has 512(H) x 492(V) PAL pixels. It has
total number of 330 lines. It has the luminance of 1.5 Lux. The lens in the camera is 12mm. It
requires the DC voltage of 12V [11]. This camera was also used by the Norwegian satellite
nCube-1 and nCube-2. These two satellites were built at different universities and colleges in
Norway. The main aim of launching these satellites was to explore space and to increase the
sense of competition between different universities in the world. The second objective of these
satellites was to communicate with the ground station and to test the space-born receiver for
tracking ships [12]. But unfortunately the secondary goal was not achieved [12].

CAM is a family of special integrated serial camera modules designed for very compact
embedded imaging applications. This camera module consists of an OmniVision
CMOS colored sensor, built-in lens, and JPEG compression chip with the capability of utilizing
very low power. Also this CAM camera module is equipped with the serial interface (TTL or
RS-232) for ensuring direct serial communication with any host microcontroller via UART or
any PC COM port based solutions. This camera can send low resolution (160x120 or 80x60) raw
images for viewing or selecting desired images and high resolution (640x480 or 320x240) JPEG
images by simple user commands. It has a pixel size of 5.6 m5.6m [13].

E. Nanocam C1U
The NanoCam system is a flexible and modular system to rapidly implement tailored
imaging systems based on mission requirements. The NanoCam C1U is an off-the shelf
configuration of the NanoCam system consisting off: Lens, lens table, image acquisition board,
image processing board and software. NanoCam C1U has been designed to be implementable in
an ISIS 1U cubesat structure. The C1U systems has been designed specifically for low-cost Earth
observation missions using the cubesat standard and the whole system, together with other
required platform systems, can be accommodated in a 1U cubesat. With the supplied lens and
3MP camera the performance of the system from an altitude of 650km is an effective resolution
better than 80meter per pixel.
This camera have been used by GOMX-1is nanosatellite demonstration mission of
GomSpace, based on a two unit (2U) GomSpace Express (GOMX) CubeSat platform that
provides a payload capacity of 1.2 kg in a volume corresponding to the upper 14 cm of the
platform. The GOMX platform is a commercially available 2U CubeSat kit provided by
GomSpace ApS of Aalborg, Denmark. GomSpace is an entrepreneurial company incorporated as
a private limited company. The platform is ideal for cost-effective missions focusing on

technological research, low-cost science and commercial proof-of-concept missions. The GOMX
(GomSpace Express) platform serves as a customer tool for developing space technology