User Stories Student Projects Edition: QMSat

Quantum Magneto Satellite (QMSat) is a student project at the University of Sherbrooke which started in the fall of 2018 when the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) launched the Canadian CubeSat Initiative. The team is composed of students with different academic backgrounds and consists mostly of electrical, computer and mechanical engineering students who complete this project as part of the bachelor’s degree’s final project.

Valispace has been sponsoring this student team for almost a year and we’ve decided to find out how the team is using the software to develop their project. We’ve talked to Jean-François Bilodeau, a team member on the Quantum Magneto Satellite, who was responsible for putting up the Vali architecture for their 4 teams: Mechanical, Telecom, Satellite and Payload. He was also the main person managing Valispace during the design of the 2nd iteration of the Payload PCB. Overall, there are more than 50 students actively working on the project!

The Payload PCB
What’s the vision behind QMSat?

The vision behind QMSat is to prove the use of a diamond-based vector magnetometer in space. The phenomena that allow extracting the magnetic field data is based on quantum physics and the work done by Dr. David Roy-Guay from the Institute Quantique of Sherbrooke. The Payload team task is to design a shrunk, space-ready version of the original prototype developed by Dr. Roy-Guay, the satellite team task is to manage the telemetry, attitude control, power usage and delivery, the telecom team develops the ground station and the onboard requirements of the antenna, and finally the mechanical team task is to develop the arm that will deploy the quantum magnetometer from within the CubeSat structure.

How do you work within the team to make sure that the work is ready on time?

To make sure the work is done on time, each team has a documentation leader and a team manager whose tasks are to update and inform all the teams of the planned progression, divide tasks and manage delays when they can’t be solved. Every month, all the teams participate in a meeting where each team presents the work that was done in the previous month and their updated Gantt-chart. 

A view of the Payload Valispace Architecture
What do you currently like best about using Valispace in your team?

The main goal was to reduce the power consumption of the electronics to a minimum. Valispace, with its live updates and automatic calculations, hierarchical design and variables-following feature, allowed both teams to carefully select the appropriate components to reduce the overall power consumption. All the maths related to the design of the Payload and Satellite electronics are embedded directly in Valispace: when a variable is modified, so is the results. 

The use of Valispace was critical for the payload and satellite teams during the design of the on-board electronics.

If you compare your current approach using Valispace with traditionally managed engineering projects, what would you say are the main differences?

The use of Valispace instead of an excel sheet was justified by the ease of access for every team member, the great functionalities the tool has that allow to extract precious information from the data, the easy workflow and learning curve and the excellent customer service we receive from Valispace.

This tool has proven to be of great use and will be updated until the very last before proceeding to the validation and test phase leading to the launch.

1st revision of the power delivery PCB

The Payload Team
Is responsible for the development of the quantum magnetometer (payload of the QMSat CubeSat).
The most challenging task for the team was to shrink a 30x30cm design made for a laboratory environment down to 7.5×7.5cm suitable for CubeSat operation. You can see that the component density is very high, and the PCB stack-up is composed of 12 copper layers.

The Satellite Team
Here is the satellite team, involved in the development of the power delivery PCB (also implements the redundancy features), attitude control, orbital analysis and on-board computer programming.
The most challenging task of the Satellite team is to design robust redundant electronics for the power delivery architecture and write the command laws of the CubeSat. Our CubeSat will deploy the Payload on a 60-cm arm in space which greatly affects the command laws!