Finnish Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Space
Two major areas the project works on are space debris and radiation effects on satellites. FORESAIL-1 mission will demonstrate the plasma brake for deorbiting and measure radiation belt losses with PArticle TElescope (PATE). FORESAIL-2 will characterize ultra low frequency waves, Coulomb drag and radiation effects in various environments of altitudes ranging from low Earth orbit to several Earth radii. FORESAIL-3 aims to test the electric sail where it belongs — in the solar wind — which would require launching the satellite in lunar or other orbit that intersects with the solar wind. Likely, a cooperation with ESTCube-3 (see below). One of my major tasks is interaction between science, instrument and engineering teams to take care that missions are well defined and the satellite platform fulfils mission requirements.
Comet Interceptor has been selected as ESA’s new fast-class mission. Comprising three spacecraft, it will be the first to visit a truly pristine comet or other interstellar object that is only just starting its journey into the inner Solar System. Together with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the University of Tartu and Aalto University, we are developing an instrument OPtical Imager for Comets (OPIC) for mapping of the nucleus and its dust jets at different visible and infrared wavelengths. The instrument is named after an Estonian astronomer Ernst Öpik who proposed a reservoir of comets which is now called the Öpik–Oort cloud, from where the Comet Interceptor target would originate.
Tradespace Analysis Tool for Constellations
I developed the TAT-C's orbit maintenance module which uses computationally-lightweight models to predict the long-term secular drift of relative orbital elements due to the gravitational 'J2' effects and the atmospheric drag. Simple orbital maneuvers are assumed to estimate the ∆v budget, propellant consumption and the frequency of maneuvers. This allows to explore a large set of constellation designs in a short time frame without propagating orbits.
I was in the initial proposing team who submitted the Multi-Asteroid Touring (MAT) concept to the European Space Agency's (ESA's) call for "New Science Ideas". The concept is lead by Pekka Janhunen. Based on his talk at the European Planetary Science Congress 2017, The Economist published an article "A new way of propelling spacecraft may open up the asteroid belt". I presented a paper "Nanospacecraft Fleet for Multi-asteroid Touring with Electric Solar Wind Sails" at the IEEE Aerospace Conference 2018. The concept is further advanced by Mihkel Pajusalu (see a flyby simulation below) and my PhD students Iaroslav Iakubivskyi and Janis Dalbins.
ESTCube-2 is a mission in low Earth orbit to test technologies required for testing the electric sail in the solar wind (nominally, ESTCube-3). It is a three-unit CubeSat ready for deep space — reaction wheels, star tracker, cold gas propulsion and the rest of the spacecraft bus fits in one unit, leaving the rest for payloads. Find more about the mission in "ESTCube-2 plasma brake payload for effective deorbiting". Below is an animation of ESTCube-2 tether deployment by Taavi Torim.
ESTCube-2 received 38,743€ via Hooandja crowdfunding campaign (see a paper "Crowdfunding for Satellite Development: ESTCube-2 Case") and a significant support from Ahti Heinla. Thank you!
Between mid-2015 to mid-2017, I lead the ESTCube Programme: Organizing and keeping the track of satellite development and international partners, developing strategy and roadmap, as well as writing proposals and fundraising. I'm a co-founder and a supervisory board member of the Estonian Student Satellite Foundation. Currently, I'm overseeing the project as an academic adviser.
ESTCube-1, launched in 2013, is the first satellite that attempted to test the electric solar wind sail. Below is an animation how the mission was intended. The reality was much more fun and it is presented in "ESTCube-1 In-Orbit Experience and Lessons Learned".
Between 2012 and 2014, I lead the attitude determination and control system which resulted in a working system, various journal papers before and after the launch, as well as my PhD thesis. I am also the corresponding author of the main ESTCube-1 reference and the article on lessons learned. The project was partly supported by the ESA Plan for European Cooperating States project "Technology demonstration for space debris mitigation and electric propulsion on ESTCube-1 student satellite". I was in charge of reporting the project.