A European consortium, led by TNO is developing and testing a system for space called PEASSS, Piezoelectric Assisted Smart Satellite Structure, over the coming three years. At the beginning of 2013, The European Union awarded an FP7 Contract to a consortium of 6 companies from Holland, Germany, Belgium and Israel.
The objective of the project is to develop, manufacture, test and qualify 'smart structures' which combine composite panels, piezoelectric materials, and next generation sensors, for autonomously improved pointing accuracy and power generation in space. Smart structures will enable fine angle control, thermal and vibration compensation, improving all types of future Earth observations, such as environmental and planetary mapping, border and regional imaging.
Many of the new technologies that will be demonstrated have never been applied in space before. Piezoelectric actuators embedded in a composite structure is a new technology for space, which stands to increase pointing accuracy and stability, while decreasing mass and power consumption. Embedded fiber optic sensors are also cutting edge, allowing structural monitoring without wiring and related electromagnetic interference. Piezo power generation can be incorporated into structures, allowing power for distributed sensor networks.
In addition to functioning as the technical and administrative lead for the PEASSS project, TNO is developing the Fiber Bragg Gratings fiber optic sensors, including the Interrogator. The PEASSS provides an attractive opportunity to demonstrate and test such application. TNO is also leading the prototype development and testing phase, before bringing the flight hardware into production by the respective companies. Finally, TNO is leading the dissemination and exploitation of the newly developed technologies.
The project includes a challenging intended launch and performance demonstration in a space environment after integration within a cubesat. Mission lifetime can be as long as 12 months or even longer. In case the project is delayed an alternative test program in a Thermal-Vacuum environment will be executed.