Design of a COTS MST distributed sensor suite system for planetary surface exploration
The aim of this project is To bring together current commercially available technology and relevant Microsystems Technology (MST) into a small, standardised spacecraft primary systems architecture, multiple units of which can demonstrate collaboration… Distributed “lab-on-a-chip” sensor networks are a possible option for the surface exploration of both Earth and Mars, and as such have been chosen as a model small spacecraft architecture. This project presents a systems approach to the design of a collection of collaborative MST sensor suites for use in a variety of environments. Based on a set of derived objectives, the main features of the study are: What are the fundamental limits to miniaturisation? What are the hardware issues raised using both standard and MST components? What is the optimum deployment pattern of the network to locate various shaped targets? What are the strategic and economic challenges of MST and the development of a sensor suite network? In general, there are few fundamental physical laws that limit the size of the sensor system. Limits tend to be driven by other factors including user requirements and the external environment. A simple breadboard model of the sensor suite consisting current COTS MST components raised practical issues such as circuit layouts, power requirements and packaging. A grid illustrating features of the Martian surface was created. Various patterns of target and sensor clusters were simulated. Overall, for larger target areas, clusters of sensors produced the best “hit rate”. The overall system utilises both wired and wireless communications methods. The I2C protocol has been investigated for intersuite communications. A link has been made between bacteria pools found on Glaciers (Cryoconites) and the possible conditions for life at the Polar Ice Caps of Mars. The investigation of Arctic Cryoconites has been selected as a representative case study that will incorporate all aspects of the project and demonstrate the system design. A comprehensive mission baseline based on this application has been produced, however the system has been designed to enable its use in a variety of situations whilst requiring only minimal modification to the overall design.