Open projects

Fall 2019 projects



General description of the mission

CHESS (Constellation of High Energy Swiss Satellites) is a space project born at
e-Space in february 2019. It will be the first student mission to launch a constellation
of CubeSats to study high energy astrophysics, in late 2021. The four satellites will
be loaded with a hard X-ray Compton polarimeter as main payload and will fly
around Earth on a low sun synchronous orbit.
The constellation will operate during three years with a triple objective:

    – permanent monitoring of the full sky for hard X-ray transient gamma ray bursts
    – permanent observation of the sun in hard X-rays energies
    – observation of space weather events, electrons protons and heavy ions

These observations will be used both for space industry applications and for
scientific research (data correlation with other missions such as Solar Orbiter and
LIGO-Virgo gravitational wave observatories).
As part of CHESS the student will:

    – communicate and collaborate with the other members of the project to provide a coherent design of the satellites.
    – acquire a comprehensive insight in the conception and development of a space mission
    – be part of a national project involving multiple universities across Switzerland

We suggest the following list of semester projects for CHESS:

Adaptation of a Time of Flight camera for satellite tracking in space

Supervisor: Pr. Charbon at AQAL
Type of the project: Master semester or final project, 1-2 students
Recommended: PHYS, EE
Taking advantage of having four satellites into orbit, another one will be
equipped with a Time of Flight camera developed at Advanced Quantum
Architecture Lab, EPFL. The target is to demonstrate if such a camera can be more
competent than current rendezvous radars to track the other satellites of the
Task: The sensor should be usable for multiple detection modes. All optical
parameters of the LASER cells have to be chosen and the hardware structure is to
be defined accordingly.

CHESS Attitude determination and control system

Supervisor: TBD
Type of the project: Master semester or final project, 1-2 students
Recommended: Robotics, ME, MT
The attitude control is a challenging problem due to power and mass limitations of
the actuators and sensors. The following steps can be considered in this project:

    – Choosing the sensors and actuators for attitude determination and control.
    – Dynamic modelling of CubeSat
    – Determination of CubeSat attitude
    – Optimal controller design

The designed controller will be tested in simulation using the dynamic model of

Cubesat Mission Design and Environments Definition

Supervisor: TBD
Type of the project: Master semester project, 1 student
Recommended: Minor in Space Technologies
A preliminary analysis of the Cubesat possible orbits, eclipse duration, time in view
of the ground station, and launch vehicle options has already been performed. The
goal of this project is to further refine these analyses, refine the understanding of the
orbital constraints and of the launch options. The student will define the state of the
satellite after deployment from the launch vehicle, will determine what a typical day
in the life of the operating Cubesat will be, and define the disposal options. This task
also includes the evaluation of the radiation, atmospheric and debris environments in
These analyses will impact and support the science investigations, the whole
mission plan, and all satellite subsystem requiring environment information. The
student will learn about orbital mechanics, space mission design, mission planning
and space environments.

Design of the satellite’s power system

Supervisor: TBD
Type of the project: Master semester or final project, 1 student
Recommended: EE, MT, Robotics
The student has a major role to provide a fail-proof power distribution board. His or
her main task will be to state whether the power system should be an adaptation of
an off the shelf component or if the whole board should be designed. Both cases will
be investigated. The student will be highly concerned with the choice CubeSats’
subsystems. A prior experience in mechatronics would be highly valuable.

Energy supply of the CubeSats

Supervisor: TBD
Type of the project: Master semester project, 1 student
Recommended: Energy Science & Technology, MT, ME
The student will be asked to propose solution(s) for the management of the energy
on board. The objective is to ensure sufficient energy supply even in worst case
scenarios. Tasks will involve the choice of the solar panels and BMS, some
components are to be designed if not found off the shelf. The selection criteria are
mainly lightweight and robustness.

CubeSat configuration & structure definition

Supervisor: TBD
Type of the project: Master semester or final project, 1 student
Recommended: MT, MX, ME
The student will pursue the 3D modelisation of the CubeSat and all its subsystems.
A frame is to be designed in order to securely hold each component. This frame
must be lightweight, yet be robust enough to keep the satellite (including the
electronics inside and the solar panels outside) intact during the vibrations and
shocks of launch, and must survive repeated thermal shocks as the Cubesat goes
from direct sunlight to the shadow of the earth.

Solar panel deployment system

Supervisor: TBD
Type of the project: Bachelor or Master semester project, 1 student
Recommended: Robotics, MT, ME
The satellite must present a fail-proof, small and lightweight solar panel deployment
mechanism which will be activated once the system is in orbit. At the same time,
aerospace compatibility must be ensured. This project consists of three different
phases. In the first part of the work, the student will have to study this domain’s “state
of the art” by searching for other CubeSat’s antenna deployment mechanisms. After
this study, a solution must be chosen (either existing or completely innovative) and
developed in detail. Finally, a prototype will be built and tested.
This project requires the cooperation with the students working on other aspects of
the CubesSat, such as the satellite structural design.


Capture System prototyping and testing

Supervisor: Bastien Gorret – eSpace
Type of the project: Semester, Minor or Master Project, 2-4 students
Recommended: ME, MT, Robotics, EE, Control
The objective of the work is to finalise the capture system actuators design and establish a test set-up to characterise its performances. This work is part of the capture system development for an ESA mission which aims at capturing space debris with a size between 100kg and 800kg. During the initial project phase, critical technologies and design features are developed and verified to mitigate development risk and increase confidence in the selected design.

    – Finalisation of space prototype design
    – Establishment of capture prototype test set-up
    – Manufacturing, assembly of test set-up and if possible tests
    – Establishment of test procedure and report

Contact Dynamics Simulation Tool (CDST)

Supervisor: LSMS + eSpace (Guillaume Anciaux, Bastien Gorret)
Type of the project: Semester, Minor or Master Project, 1 student
Recommended: ME, IC, PHYS
The objective of this workpackage is to initiate the development of a software allowing to reliably simulate the target/chaser contact dynamics occurring during capture. The mastering of this key challenge is primordial for a successful ADR (active debris removal) mission and required for the capture system dimensioning, the GNC design and to support failure scenario prevention. Finite-element visco-elastic, large deformation simulations will be used as simulation approach. Viscosity will allow to model absorbing materials, while stiffer parts will be modelled with elasticity.

    – Review of CDST architecture and interfaces
    – Review of project’s requirements
    – Contact dynamics simulation and analysis
    – Discussion of simulation/analysis results and definition of next CDST development/optimisation steps

Test-bench and simulations for space autonomous and relative navigation

Supervisor: eSpace, CV Lab (Mathieu Salzman, Bastien Gorret)
Type of the project: Semester, Minor or Master Project, 3-4 students
Recommended: Interest in imaging optics, robotics (ME, MT, Robotics, PHYS)
The objective of the work is to design a simple and effective real-time relative navigation system fed by line-of-sight and range measurements, enabling the early inspection of noncooperative targets. The focus is given on robustness and simplicity: the relative navigation system has to be able to rapidly and reliably perform after first activation in orbit. The system shall be able to provide in real-time and independently to the light condition relative position accurate at the submeter level, allowing for the establishment of passively stable inspection orbits. The validation of the system will be performed using the Space Scene Imaging testbench to simulate the typical light environment expected during the mission.

    – Review of existing available documentation and test material
    – Refurbish and improve test setup with new motorization for the Space Scene Imaging testbench
    – Design and build realistic mock-up of targets
    – Design and implementation of the relative navigation system; test in Space Scene Imaging testbench
    – Simulation of typical scenarios
    – Write test plan and test procedure for performance validation

If you have any question or need more information, please contact Candice Norhadian.