PQ60 - EPS

An Electronic Power System in the PocketQube 60 femtosatellite form factor

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There's been an increase of interest in space related projects in the last year or so. With QubeCast Max being a quarter finalist in the 2014 Hackaday Prize and SatNOGS winning as well as an ever growing list on As long time space fan I thought I'd add something to the efforts and decided to the design probably the most important piece of hardware in a satellite.

The Electronic Power System (EPS).

The EPS is critical to the satellite actually achieving something. Its core task is to manage the power used by the electrical systems. This typically means harvesting power from the attached solar panels, storing it and supplying it as required. Of course to do this effectively the solar energy harvesters must be highly efficient, the power must be stored with minimal waste and regulated for the other systems in the satellite with little losses.

This project will help solve the difficulties encountered when trying to design a satellite for your project!

  • 1 × Hirose FX8C-60P Top connector
  • 1 × Hirose FX8C-60S Bottom connector
  • 4 × LT3105 Solar harvester
  • 1 × MAX8606 Battery management
  • 2 × LTC4413 Ideal diode

View all 8 components

  • Populating Issue A PCB

    Pinski108/10/2015 at 22:02 2 comments

    And now for a video log!

    Things not mentioned in the video:

    • I'm going to Chaos Communications Camp (CCC) 2015 in Germany to give a talk on combat robots!
    • I've got some basic code working on an FRDM KL05 mbed board
    • I'm planning to finish populating the board once I get back from CCC and I'll video the 'smoke test'!
    • I've already identified some large problems, so an Issue B is guaranteed!

  • A new version!

    Pinski107/06/2015 at 21:06 0 comments

    So a few months back the PQ60 Standard group published a new PQ60 standard that redefined the board sizes and pin maps. This of course meant I needed to redesign my board so as to maintain comparability.

    This time, with specific figures for how much each rail needed to be able to source I could design my EPS to fully met the specification. Of course to control the 6 switched power rails and collate the telemetry I'm adding a micro-controller to the EPS. I'm still somewhat against having separate switch-able rails. I feel that a satellite won't need the 6 switch-able rails and they become wasted pin space. On the other end of the scale the satellite needs more switch-able rails and so needs to come up with a creative way of sourcing new ones.

    Regardless I now need to fit 8 current limiting switches and have 6 of them individually controllable. To fit these 8 switches with 2 levels of current limiting I've chosen the TPS2553. This chip is available in a tiny surface mount package and the current limit can be set with an external resistor.

    I'm keeping the battery charger chip (MAX8606) the same but I've found a TI chip (BQ24072)

    that has most of the same functions. I'm also keeping the Boost-Buck converter (TPS63001) the same as it can supply the required current.

    A big change I've made is to move the Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) circuitry to the top of the board. I decided that it would be too hard to solder the complex circuitry on both sides of the PCB. To do this I also combined two of the channels as on a 6 sided satellite only 3 faces can ever be illuminated at once so by connecting opposite faces in parallel more efficient use of the MPPTs can be made.

    The biggest change is to add a micro-controller to the EPS. This causes a lot more work as now code must be written, and tested, and verified etc. But it does allow me to build in better features improving the safety and ease of interfacing. I've chosen the Feescale KL05 as it is cost effective, I have some experience of using it and it is mbed compatible.

    The next step is to actually order the boards & parts and get it made up. Then I will need to start testing it!

  • Femto Satellites - A Rough Guide

    Pinski104/12/2015 at 16:12 0 comments

    My goal for this project was to improve the exposure of PocketQube femto-satellites. These are 50mm x 50mm x 50mm satellites that have been very popular in the news for their extremely low cost to orbit. I want to add to the open source QubeCast Max transmitter/receiver board with another core board that is critical for a PocketQube, the Electronic Power System (EPS). Without an EPS board you cannot generate power to keep your satellite transmitting or carrying out the science that you intend.

    Small satellites were born as a result of an over all industry trend to increase the reliability and longevity of satellites as they cannot be repaired. This lead to larger more expensive satellites that cost more to design, manufacture and launch into space. The increase in costs also meant an increase in the required reliability which mean only parts which had already been flown or proven to work in space could be used in the design and manufacture. This cycle would keep going increasing the cost which would increase the required reliability all to the detriment of innovation. To counteract this small satellites were born, design smaller satellites with shorter lifetimes and thus less required reliability which makes them cheaper to design manufacture and build. They're also cheaper to launch as they could be auxilary payloads on larger satellite launches. The most popular form-factor for these now is the Cube Satellite which is 100mm on each side.

    To continue the cycle PocketQube was born in 2009 in the US as a way of reducing the costs even further down to where most universities could feasibly build, test and launch one. You can read more about them on their Wikipedia page here.

    The block diagram below shows a typical PocketQube satellite.

    The core of the satellite is the PQ60 Bus, this is a set of interconnections between all the boards in the satellite. It contains power, communications and GPIOs. It is like the spine of the PocketQube satellite. Which would make the OBC or On Board Computer the brain, this is the primary controller for the satellite, it could be as simple as an Arduino or it could be a micro-processor running Linux. While the hardware for the OBC may not be too complex the software needs to be so as to be fault tolerant to keep the satellite running despite any problems it encounters. The RxTx is the radio for communicating with the ground stations, it's great to have a satellite by the data it produces must be communicated to the ground station or it has no purpose. It will be quite high powered to communicate across the vast distances and need to be quite high frequency to both transmit/receive data efficiently but also escape the Earth's ionosphere. The EPS extracts power from the solar cell arrays and charges a battery, it then provides with power to the rest of the satellite via the PQ60 bus.

    Optional payload boards depend on the mission scenarios, some missions may call for accurate attitude control of the satellite so will include attitude determining sensors as well as actuators. Other payload boards may include secondary radios, secondary EPSs and cameras. The great thing about the PocketQube standard is that they can be easily slotted into the satellite with minimal electronic hardware changes.

    Below is a simplified block diagram of my EPS:

    Up to 4 solar cell arrays are connected to the EPS and 4 Maximum Power Point Trackers (MPPTs) seek to extract the most power from the cells in the most efficient way. The aim is to maximise the amount of power absorbed each orbit.

    The charger then stores this energy in a battery, typically lithium ion to maximise energy per unit weight. The battery will provide power during periods the satellite is not collecting solar energy or eclipse. This is monitored by the telemetry block so the state of charge can be determined, how much energy is left. The charger also monitors the battery and disconnects it from the rest of the satellite if it becomes dangerously low.

    The release switch...

    Read more »

  • Updates

    Pinski104/06/2015 at 15:11 0 comments

    It's been quite some time since I last updated this, been a bit busy lately getting my 13.5kg combat robot up and ready for its first competition in mid April. But anyway back to the PQ60 EPS! I have been working on this in the background, namely looking at the new PocketQube (v1.1) spec (available at and seeing what I need to update on my EPS to bring it into line.

    The big difference between the PocketQube v1.1 spec and v0.2 spec is the pin assignments of the 60 pin connector:

    • Ground pins are no long spread out and are next to their respective power supplies
    • General Purpose In/Out (GPIO) pins are now grouped together instead of being spaced out
    • USB has been completely removed
    • Power pins have been grouped together and have detailed current capacities.

    Overall I think these changes are good, they've simplified the pin arrangement massively. I hope to now re-design my board to fulfil the full PQ60 spec and supply the required 800milliAmps on each of the two main power buses as well as the 400milliAmps on each of the six switched buses. However I disagree with the need for switched power buses.

    I agree with the need, it is important that the On Board Computer (OBC) can turn off current consumers, known as load shedding, however I feel that it would be better served by having this managed by a local I2C controlled switch on the load's PCB. This could be done with a dedicated microcontroller that allows for load telemetry/control or even a barely smart load switch like the Texas Instruments TPS22994 or the Linear Tech LTC1710 both take up ~10mm2 of board space and ~20microAmps.

    In addition to the spec related update I also went through the footprints to check that I hadn't made a mistake which would make the first boards really hard to get working. I had, nuts! My inductor footprint for the Linear Tech LT3105 energy harvesters was wrong, really wrong. The correct footprint was much larger and will require a redesign of the EPS.

    Whilst I continue with the changes to the EPS I've been thinking, while EPS is very important, but it's also important to have communications and command processing so I may expand this entry to add a radio board and a computer board for a full PQ60 solution.

  • Initial check in

    Pinski103/14/2015 at 20:01 0 comments


    This is my entry to the 2015 Hackaday Prize. A femto satellite Electronic Power System (EPS).

    I came up with the idea to create this board after seeing the QubeCast Max reach the semifinals in the 2014 Hackaday Prize. I wanted to help push the popularity of femto satellites forward. I'm currently doing some re-design work on the PCB layout.

View all 5 project logs

  • 1
    Step 1

    Buy the parts;

    • PCBs from your preferred mnufacturer
    • Components from your preferred vendor
  • 2
    Step 2

    Assemble the parts, I recommend starting with the solar harvesting side first.

  • 3
    Step 3

    Solder on the FX8C-60x connectors

View all 4 instructions

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Chris Hamilton wrote 04/10/2015 at 02:18 point

You might consider TPS2115A over the LTC4413.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Pinski1 wrote 04/12/2015 at 11:30 point

What are its advantages?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Chris Hamilton wrote 04/12/2015 at 14:04 point

Lower price, lower R for a little lower power capability (2.5A).

  Are you sure? yes | no

Pinski1 wrote 04/12/2015 at 19:09 point

Its got higher R over temperature range but it is cheaper and has a wider pitch.

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Augusto Fraga Giachero wrote 03/15/2015 at 00:05 point

I couldn't find any info about the LT4413 diode. Can you provide the datasheet?

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Pinski1 wrote 03/15/2015 at 08:14 point

Whoops! I derped, it's actually the LTC4413, check out the webpage here:

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OzQube wrote 03/10/2015 at 22:36 point

Hey! Neat project! can't wait for more of a write up. it looks like you've gone with the first draft of the PQ60, not the version 1.0. Let me know if you need a copy. Eventually it should get published at 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Pinski1 wrote 03/10/2015 at 23:23 point

I'd love a copy of the newest version. Yeh, I need to finish up some housekeeping stuff with the PCBs and add all the information to the log. Then the ordering of parts & filming needs to happen.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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