Blue Canyon Technologies’ XACT Attitude Control System Delivers Precision Pointing For MinXSS CubeSat

On May 16, 2016, the University of Colorado's MinXSS CubeSat deployed from an airlock of the International Space Station to enter an orbit around Earth. MinXSS observes soft X-rays from the sun -- such X-rays can disturb the ionosphere and thereby hamper radio and GPS signals. Image Credit: ESA/NASA

On May 16, 2016, the University of Colorado’s MinXSS CubeSat deployed from an airlock of the International Space Station to enter an orbit around Earth. MinXSS observes soft X-rays from the sun — such X-rays can disturb the ionosphere and thereby hamper radio and GPS signals. Image Credit: ESA/NASA

June 30, 2016 – In its first ever flight, the XACT attitude control system from Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) is providing high-performance guidance, navigation, and control to the orbiting Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS) spacecraft.

A 3U CubeSat funded by NASA and led by the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, MinXSS requires precision pointing to carry out its scientific objectives. Integrating an array of high-performance miniaturized space sensors and actuators, including BCT’s Nano Star Tracker and Micro Reaction Wheels, the XACT unit provides state-of-the-art attitude control for small spacecraft like MinXSS. On-orbit telemetry from both the XACT unit and independent spacecraft instrumentation indicates 1-sigma cross-axis pointing error better than 8 arcseconds, which is less than the width of the Empire State Building as viewed from Los Angeles.

MinXSS was deployed from the International Space Station on May 16, and is designed to collect soft Xray emissions from the sun that will help scientists better understand space weather in which solar storms impact our space-based technology such as communication and navigation systems.

The mission exemplifies the increasing capability of low-cost CubeSat missions, which have proliferated as the enabling technology has developed. In the coming years BCT’s XACT attitude control system and XB-1 spacecraft bus are slated for dozens of flights in support of a wide array of scientific, commercial, and defense missions.

Blue Canyon Technologies, Inc. is a Boulder, Colorado-based aerospace company founded in 2008 by CU-Boulder graduate George Stafford. The company brings high-performance, affordable solutions to space missions.