KIT's Multinational BIRDS CubeSats are FM Ready

Talk about being multinational.
Photo Credits: Tejumola Taiwo's fb page.
Taken without permission.
Look, if you had to isolate ONE institute that's creating a big buzz in the pico, nano and small satellite community, it has to be Kyushu Institute of Technology (KIT) of Japan. Seoul National University's SNUSAT team had the chance to take a nice, long, greedy look at KIT's facilities and we were sort of star-struck by what Prof. Mengu Cho, Prof. Hirokazu Masui and his relentless group of grad students were doing with the Horyu [HERE] Project.

Let's just say we are big, big fans. 

The current BIRDS team
Prof. Masui (second from left in front row), Prof. Cho (thrid from left) and Taiwo (next to Prof.Cho)

KIT's latest CubeSat multinational project, acronym-ed as BIRDS project [HERE], is step closer to launching their satellites to space. In a recent facebook post, Tejumola Taiwo, the project manager, posted a picture of five, very sexy FM Cubesats waiting to shipped up into the Low Earth Orbit (LEO). What's exciting is that the initiative is a first of its kind where students from Ghana, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Japan and Nigeria came together and produced a "clone" satellite for each of their nation. We, here, are all very proud of such an achievement. 

Prof. Masui instructing the SNUSAT-1 team how thermal vacuum cycle is conducted.
He is one-of-a-kind hands-on Profs we have seen. 
Taking a Brief Look at BIRDS CubeSat

We got hold of a couple of pictures from the their official facebook page [HERE] and look into how they approached designing their system. It's quite different from the approach SNUSAT-1/1b and SNUSAT-2 took. 

1) Highly Modular System

Modular System

A look at their PCB design of one of their subsystem shows a modular approach. That means that if they want a different processor for another mission, they can simply plug the new module right into their old system. Much like how we would replace an old RAM with a new RAM on a PC's motherboard. Notably, the PCB model also shows independent clock signals to IC's which require them. Check out those loaded crystal oscillators. Having independent sources like that does increase the system's reliability while also helps to reduce coupled systems. Understand why clocks are needed in the first place [HERE].

2) Harnessing and Structure

Shows how each subsys
Harnessing can be a major, major headache if not done properly. The BIRDS team has smartly designed the CubeSat in such a way they "stack" all their subsystems into a "harness" PCB interconnects all the other system. Much like how you would place a game-boy cartridge (remember?) onto the gameboy but only this time, imagine a gameboy which could take in multiple cartridges at a time. We tried to do something similar with SNUSAT-EDU and certainly, some satellites have done that in the past as shown below from Intelligent Space Systems Laboratory of University of Tokyo's XI Cubesat.

Vertical stacking is not a new concept, however, most CubeSat teams choose horizontal staking
Staking vertically, teams must ensure that the bottom does not fatigue during vibration
As for the structure, we are guessing that the structure either consists of Al6061or Al7075. It's the standard that most CubeSat teams use.

3) PCB Design

Very neat PCB layout

After pulling our hair for a while, we are unable to figure out what exactly the board does. A higher resolution image would have allowed us to see what components are being used which would then provide a basis for a calculate guess. All we can say at this point is that the board has a 2A rated surface mounted relay G6KU-2F-Y [Datasheet HERE]. Use of such high rated current is still a big mystery, although, we can assume that it can be used to drive actuators. Also, such switches can also be used for thermal knife. So if were to reach a conclusion with the limited info we have, it should be somehow related to Attitude Determination and Control System. And yes, that's a very, very compact and well laid out layout. Whoever was designing the PCB has had a world of experience doing so.

Surface mount relay G6KU-2F-Y
Useful information if we want to use a relay in our system in the future

Anyways, we are all very happy for the team over at KIT. Best wishes for the launch and yes, Taiwo, if you are reading this, get your ass over to Seoul real quick!


  1. Wonderful and congratulations to the team. Think about; what if a Nepali Fuchchhe (nano)satellite could be in this row next time?


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