AggieSat3 Mission Statement

AggieSat3 logo

The AggieSat3 mission aims to demonstrate close proximity navigation utilizing a stereo vision system in an advancement toward autonomous rendezvous and docking missions.

Project Overview

AggieSat3 is Texas A&M University’s spacecraft mission for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Nanosat-5 program. AggieSat3 is a collaborative effort between Texas A&M University, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. The primary goal of this mission is aimed at advancing sensor technologies for use in future Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking missions. AggieSat3 will serve as the testbed for a stereo-vision system called the Bumblebee2. This system, which was developed at Point Grey Research Inc, features two high resolution cameras that provide imagery in a similar manner to one’s eyes. Through image analysis, distance to and from a secondary object can be determined. For space applications, this system could serve as an impact avoidance system or an attitude and orientation identification tool. AggieSat3 hopes to evaluate its use for the later during its mission. This research will have the added benefit of aiding the LONESTAR program with its final goal of autonomously rendezvousing two orbiting spacecraft.

In addition to testing its revolutionary stereoscopic space navigation technique, AggieSat3 will also be carrying a set of GPS receivers developed by NASA, and a debris detector developed by ERAU. Serving as a secondary mission objective, AggieSat3 will be required to record GPS data during the stereoscopic navigation period to achieve differential tracking solutions. This information must then be transmitted to the ground, along with the imagery data to verify the experimental results. Again, this system will help support the LONESTAR program in its ARD objectives. Students at AggieSat Lab have teamed up with students from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University for AggieSat3’s third payload, a space debris detector. This detector, which was developed at ERAU, will fly with AggieSat3 during its mission. As AggieSat3 orbits around the Earth, data will be collected from the detector and transmitted down with the imagery and GPS data from AggieSat3’s two other missions.


AggieSat3 will also be AggieSat Lab’s first satellite with full attitude determination and control capabilities.  Using a combination of three torque coils and three reaction wheels, the A&M satellite will be capable of re-orienting itself while in orbit to maximize solar power acquisition and keep a selected target in its field of view during tracking exercises.

Aiming to achieve overarching AggieSat Lab objectives, AggieSat3 will be developed as a reconfigurable bus which will be supportive to future missions planned by AggieSat Lab. Many of the successes of AggieSat1 will be carried on into this new mission including the command and data handling and client software packages. Utilizing these previous systems as building blocks for the AggieSat3 system will not only expedite the design process but allow for more robust system development as well. This method will also be useful in achieving the Lab’s objective of developing a Responsive Space Missions architecture. With the advancement of these software packages and its stereo-vision navigation techniques, AggieSat Lab hopes to pave the way for future missions with its AggieSat3 satellite.

Project Timeline

Project timeline for AggieSat3 including deadlines and completion status.
Event Deadline Status
Critical Design Review February 28, 2008 Completed
Preliminary Qualification Review August 2008 Completed
Flight Competition Review January 2009 Not selected - project ended

To ensure AggieSat3 meets the expectations of the Air Force and AggieSat Lab administrators, a time line was constructed to establish critical deadlines that must be meet for project completion. These deadlines are both internal requirements, and requirements stated in the Nanosat V competition established by the Air Force.