Using Solar Sensors for NewSpace projects

We are always open to innovation in the space industry with the use of new technologies. Bringing the space closer to the global community and accelerating innovation is not an easy task. That’s why we created Solar MEMS and discovered our passion: solar sensors.

We are all aware of the importance of satellites and their correct functioning and optimization. Solar MEMS is specialized in Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) technologies applied to high-precision solar sensors for those satellites, and other high-tech markets.

Have you ever wondered how solar sensors can improve space projects and how important is the sun for a perfect system working on space? Do you exactly know how our cutting-edge technology is applied and which projects we have been working on? 

We give you answers on this article, with real application cases. We take off!

Solar sensor applications in industry

Solar sensors have many industrial markets and applications: light-source tracking, pointing systems, attitude control, sun radiation measurements, solar tracking platform controllers, and drones attitude determination among many others. 

In fact, sun particles and energy can affect spacecraft and astronauts, that’s why NASA selected five proposals for concept studies of missions to help improve understanding of the dynamics of the Sun.

But how do we, at Solar MEMS, use our sensors in industry?

    • Solar monitoring of large heliostats and Stirling power generation systems.
    • Temperature and shadow control inside a vehicle
    • Controlling vehicles using the position of the sun as an absolute reference.
    • To determine the attitude of a boat in wave conditions
    • Hot air balloons taking the internet to remote places: hot air balloons are quick and easy to install and deploy
    • To study rocket performance in academic and research programs
    • Solar sensors for lunar rovers
    • For solar satellite observation at lagrange point
    • For moon observing satellites in other solar system planets

We also have designed and manufactured the Ground Support Equipment to test the solar sensors integrated in the Oneweb Megaconstellation satellites among many other interesting projects… Check those out!

Some of the amazing space projects Solar MEMS has been involved with

Solar mems nanosat 1b

Nanosat 1B during tests in INTA facilities

Although Solar MEMS is primarily working “with the sun” and have many projects not related to space, our main business core is focused on satellites as these were the very first projects we worked on:

Nanosat 1B was our first mission, the one that led to founding Solar MEMS. We had recently come out from the University, so this was a completely new and huge step for us. We learnt all the protocols and methods of working with satellites in a short time as this was the first job we did in the space sector. It ended a few years ago, successfully. Our sensors were working in orbit for 6 years with ease and without any problem or setback.

EU: Cropis was our first project with a big company (DLR – Institute of Space Systems), a satellite mission launched successfully in 2016. After that, we were partners with many other important agencies like NASA. It is always a pleasure to remember this project and how it helped us reach bigger challenges.

eucropis solar sensor

Coarse Sun Sensor The project is still underway after a difficult season due to the collateral effects of Covid-19. We are currently restarting production: we have already delivered 900 solar sensors; and we have more than 150 sensors in orbit, perfectly operational.

We optimized the sensor for this project to reduce costs and improve the manufacturing processes in the production line. We are currently capable of manufacturing 100 units of this model per month which was a milestone considering this is a high technology device for space.

Doing all of that in a very short time was tremendously difficult, but being the first company able to do so was a clear objective for Solar MEMS. At the end of the entire project we would have 3,600 solar sensors operating in orbit for years, with all the experience that this implies for a company like ours.

In addition, OneWeb, our client, has a factory in Florida (Cape Canaveral) where they manufacture dozens of satellites monthly. Likewise, we also participate in the factory because we provide them with ground support equipment that allows them to verify the sensors on the satellite production line.

Ground support equipment

Ground Support Equipment designed and manufactured for Oneweb Megaconstellation

Cepheus This project supposed our first important contact with cubesat technology. This allowed us to learn from this technology and develop our own solar sensors prepared for this type of satellites, the nanoSSOC, which have been a total success for us. We have already sold more than 500 units all over the world.

Sensosol SEOSAT Was a joint venture with the Spanish Earth Observation Satellite program (SEOSAT). We worked with them and the University of Seville to create a multi sun sensor with a wide field of view and high accuracy for the first Spanish optical imaging satellite.

Other Solar MEMS Projects

We are currently working on other projects that are not directly related to space: Airwatch (development of a maritime and research system based on a RPAS for helping helicopters and rescue boats, using Solar MEMS sun sensors for autonomous landing guidance), and Sigmaplantas (a microplant of heliostats to concentrate solar radiation into a cogeneration receiver to generate electricity and storage hot water) among others.

Do not hesitate to check the interview of our Business Development Director, Tamara Guerrero to learn more about the challenges we are facing and how our team is dealing with all the different projects we are working on.

And, of course, if you want to know more, do not hesitate to contact us, we will be more than happy to talk to you!