The ECOSat team will be vibration testing the third generation of their satellite, ECOSat III at the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC) in June of 2016. As a part of the CSDC teams are required to vibration test their satellite designs to ensure that they will hold up during launch, and will not become a liability for the launch vehicle.
ECOSat III has adopted a new design for it’s stack layout. A traditional PC104 stack, simply put, a stack of printed circuit boards that contain the various components for the on board computer, including communications and power.
Fig 1. Traditional PC104 Stack Design: ECOSat II Prototype
Traditionally, vertical cubesat/nanosat stack layouts usually employ rigid PC104 plus stack connectors to connect each PCB in the stack which can be cumbersome and physically inefficient, especially in regards to the usable space in between each printed circuit board.
Fig 2. Traditional Pin Connector
ECOSat III looks to solve this problem by employing a back-plane stack design. Similar to the way that graphics cards or other components are mounted in a Personal Computer, the back-plane is mounted vertically, and all other component PCB’s slot in to the back-plane at different levels.
Fig 3. NEW ECOSat III Backplane Prototype
Advantages: The back-plane design increases the usable board space on each PCB, and allows us to more effectively manage the volume between each PCB. This will enable ECOSat members to design more versatile component designs, especially concerning battery mounts. Moreover, the backplane design will allow students to more easily disassemble, test, and make modifications to their stack layout prior to finalization. Finally, this design is also more affordable and will allow for more prototype designs to be created by students.
Drawbacks: This design has not been tested in space, and the back-plane may be susceptible to vibration damage during launch.
Future: To increase flexibility in stack spacing, height and strain relief, ECOSat hopes to use a rigid-flex PCB back-plane design.