Originating as a class project, the concept for low-cost, minimal waste communication satellites demonstrated its potential at the 2023 IEEE Wireless in Space and Extreme Environments conference.

A team of researchers from the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) has won the Best Paper Award at the 2023 IEEE Wireless in Space and Extreme Environments (WiSEE) international conference.

The team is comprised of Professor Greg Durgin and graduate students Vaibhav Bhosale, Jonathan Dolan, Grishma Kalepu, and Deeksha Manjunath. Their award-winning paper, “PaddleSats: Attitude Control and Station-Keeping for Ultra-Low Density SSP Satellites,” was selected from a field of 37 international papers.

The research presents the authors’ new PaddleSat concept in which satellites are constructed from uniformly thin surfaces, using deflections in their solar panels and subsequent changes in solar pressure-induced momentum to perform station-keeping operations. Such satellites have low launch costs and very long lifetimes in space, as there is no longer the need to carry station-keeping fuel.

PaddleSats also mitigate space debris concerns as the uniformly thin satellites will—without intervention from their controller—gradually descend from orbit (either in fragments or as a whole) due to the influence of solar pressure on the spacecraft. The PaddleSat concept is crucial for developing space solar power satellites for green energy or even low-cost communication satellites that do not contribute long-term orbital debris.

The four students who co-authored the paper began investigating the concept in 2022 as an “ECE 6390 Satellite Communications and Navigation Systems” course project. They continued to refine their work after the course, which led to this original, award-winning concept paper.

The IEEE WiSEE international conference series has been a home for the top-tier research in wireless-related systems in space for the last 11 years. The researchers were honored at this year’s conference held in Aveiro, Portugal from September 6-8.

Top photo caption: Student researchers Vaibhav Ghosale (middle) and Grishma Kalepu (right) being presented the WiSEE Best Paper Award from Juan Fraire, the conference’s technical program committee chair.