Spacecraft Buses — A Revolution in the Space Industry

Spacecraft Buses — A Revolution in the Space Industry

Spacecraft Bus Design
Spacecraft Bus Design

Spacecraft buses function as the main structural systems of satellites and other space vehicles. These platforms are designed and developed by scientists to withstand the harshest space weather conditions and run the entire mechanism. Every spacecraft bus mission dictates what technology a space platform should carry and the structural build-up of this component. However, while spacecraft buses consist of the same subsystems, it is their missions that dictate what additional equipment they should carry.

What is a spacecraft bus?

Having a rectangular or cubic shape, this bus is designed to carry vital mission components, from onboard computers to any scientific tools necessary for mission completion. Without it, the scientific equipment and other satellite or spacecraft components would not have a housing. Besides, any space platform consists of numerous subsystems that receive data and oversee most functions of a satellite or other types of space vehicles. Space buses hold their name also because they are the central power and data distribution networks housing the electric power, propulsion, attitude control systems, etc. At the same time, they are in charge of telemetry, thermal control, command, and tracking. A spacecraft bus combines its subsystems into a very compact infrastructure. Space companies today are struggling to develop smaller platforms for harsher mission conditions.

What does the spacecraft bus do?

Spacecraft Bus Details
Spacecraft Bus Details

Space industry would not have advanced so far in Earth observation without space bus technology. This satellite’s main component holds a space vehicle’s scientific equipment, along with most important components. It has an outer layer that protects systems from any collision with space-floating particles and micrometeorites. This layer has anti-radiation properties too, as the Sun’s rays can be very dangerous for the systems of any satellite and space vehicle. Further, buses provide structural support and thermal blanketing by conducting heat away from the most important instruments of the satellite. They also maintain satellite networks functioning, ensuring satellites can communicate with each other. Satellites and space vehicles would also not receive any power they need to launch, maintain orbit, and operate without a space bus. This satellite component has a central controller that sends signals to all remote terminals of the space vehicle too. Space engineers are working hard to build cost-effective, long-lasting, and lightweight space buses for different missions.

Let’s take a closer look at the common spacecraft bus design

All space buses have almost the same design. It’s their mission that dictates what other special equipment they should hold or what software their systems should run. Digging deeper into spacecraft bus details, their major structure consists of six important subsystems. Let’s analyze these subsystems one by one.

●      EPS (Electrical Power Subsystem). EPS uses solar array panels to capture sunlight and turn it into the energy that other subsystems and the Science Instrument Payload use.

●      ACS (Attitude Control Subsystem). This subsystem senses orientation of the Observatory and helps it remain in a stable orbit. At the same time, it points to where Science Instruments should observe.

●      PS (Propulsion Subsystem). PS uses fuel tanks and fires rockets that keep the satellite or spacecraft in orbit, according to commands received from ACS.

●      C&DH (Command and Data Handling Subsystem). This other major subsystem is in control of communications, Science Instruments operation, and data memory/storage.

●      CS (Communications Subsystem). The CS receives commands straight from the OCC (Operations Control Center) and sends data back to OCC.

●      RT&P (Rocker Thrusters and Propellant Subsystem). Without the RT&P, a satellite or spacecraft could not keep a stationary orbit or the correct orbit.

What is the importance of such spacecraft?

A spacecraft bus is the most important component of a satellite or space vehicle because it runs primary systems and carries all scientific payloads. Satellites and spacecraft could not fully function without space buses. Aerospace companies compete to design space buses that can resist extreme space conditions and use complex software for maintaining their subsystems and other scientific equipment. In short, a bus is a mechanism that makes everything happen for a satellite or spacecraft. Space missions would not accomplish their objectives if launching space vehicles with faulty or poorly designed spacecraft buses. A spacecraft bus amazed the space industry when it was first invented. This basic structure of a satellite or spacecraft has a complex design and takes years to build because it needs to work flawlessly. If it wouldn’t, missions would not launch or be compromised. All other components and systems of a satellite or spacecraft depend on a spacecraft bus. Thus, you can imagine how much importance this essential component has, especially when it comes to power, communications, attitude, propulsion, data handling, command, etc.

A spacecraft bus of a satellite or other type of spacecraft is a revolutionary component that helped our space exploration efforts become worthy. Without this main structural piece of equipment, we wouldn’t have satellites in low Earth orbit. Moreover, manned spacecraft missions would not have been possible either.

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