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Altaïr III: a ComeBack CanSat to make atmospheric
                     measurements
                   Damien Lieber, Rafik Meziani, Sébastien Bonnart, Jérémy Carnus, Mohamed Mokhtari

   Abstract–Altaïr III is the third generation of the long-term              Zodiac Aerospace and CPE Lyon, the project could finance
CanSat project of the CLES-FACIL, and fifth CanSat                           its development as well as its presentation worldwide.
generation of the club. Its missions are atmospheric                            The team counts four members:
measurements and comeback. Thanks to a parafoil specifically                    - Rafik Meziani, technician in processes at CPE Lyon:
developed for this project by Aerazur, it glides till its target,
orientating itself with a GPS and the strings of the parafoil.                      in charge of the mechanical design and
During the whole descent, it sends location and atmospheric                         communication
data to the ground station with the onboard radio.                              - Damien Lieber, student in Mechanical Engineering
                                                                                    and Development at INSA Lyon, 3rd year.
                           I.INTRODUCTION                                       - Sebastien Bonnart, student in Telecommunications at

S   INCE the very beginnings of CanSat programs in France,                          INSA Lyon, 5th year.
    the CLES-FACIL has always been at the frontline for the                     - Jérémy Carnus, student in Computer Sciences at INSA
development of comeback CanSats. Starting from a first                              Lyon, 3rd year.
embarked experiment in 2006, the Pole Technique of the
association started a long term project in September 2009:
Altaïr. Since then, it has been presented to the Spanish,
American, Japanese and French experimental campaigns
thanks to its sponsors. Altaïr won the 2nd prize of the Spanish
competition and the CNES prize at the C’Space 2010.




                                                                                                Fig. 2. Picture of the Altaïr team.

                                                                               B.Work plan
                                                                                Altaïr 3 only began during March because we had to do
                                                                             some knowledge transfer to the new team members on this
                                                                             project. Starting from this point, we went through the
                                                                             previous flight data of Altaïr and identified the main points to
                          Fig. 1. Picture of Altaïr II                       be improved. We then planned our work in order to
                                                                             achieve these objectives. Next step was prioritizing those
                  II.CONTEXT OF DEVELOPMENT                                  tasks relying on interdependency and urgency. This process
  A.Club                                                                     was done during team brainstorming. Each member works on
   The CLES-FACIL is the Space Experiments Association                       the current tasks which corresponds to its abilities, thus
of INSA Lyon, a French engineering university located in                     parallelizing the progresses.
Lyon.                                                                           Concretely, we are divided in two teams : mechanical and
   Founded in 1967 by Alain Juge, a student passionated by                   electrical but in a very tight collaboration as a CanSat needs
space technology and rockets, it stands now on a worldwide                   a very high level of integration. This is why we are having
reputation and a large network of old members. Every year                    weekly meetings with the full team. On the development
since 2007, the team participates to the C’Space campaign                    level, design of the solutions for Altaïr 3 is going to take 10
with its rocket and CanSat.                                                  days/men, fabrication/coding will take around 10 other days
   The CLES-FACIL also develops stratospheric balloons,                      and testing and adjustments around 25 days/men.
water rockets and mini rockets, and holds animations for the                    However his fractioned vision is not realistic because the
younger generations.                                                         development process is not that much linear. We are using
   Thanks to the help of our university, INSA Lyon, and our                  "Extreme programming" methods for the electronic part and
precious sponsors such as Arianespace, Thalès, Aerazur –                     mechanical solutions usually begins by some tests.
   
     The authors are with the club CLES-FACIL, 20 Avenue Albert Einstein –
BDE INSA Lyon, F-69100 VILLEURBANNE, France. e-mail: clesfacil.insa-
lyon.fr, website: http://altair.cles-facil.fr
III.DEFINITION OF THE MISSIONS                   Following the extraction problem of the main parafoil
                                                                  observed in ARLISS, we developed a new stabilization
  A.Scientific Mission                                            system based on an induced momentum on the CanSat’s
   Atmospheric measurements thanks to a pressure and              nacelle.
temperature sensor. The measurements are coupled with the
altitude’s data from the GPS, using a Kalman filter to                                                 Stabilization parachute
improve the precision.
  B.Free Mission
   As it always was, Altaïr is a comeback CanSat. Therefore
the free mission is to land as close as possible from a target
which GPS coordinates are known before the launch. This
mission has been selected because it is the most challenging             Support strings                                             Fixed strings

and fun one. Moreover we can make the most of Altaïr's
flight heritage in order to be among the bests in this mission.                                                                          Slipping string

In addition to that, we intend to place a video camera on the
                                                                         Instantaneous Center of Rotation
CanSat that will record the flight for both imagery purpose
and knowledge gathering for future mission debriefing. This                                                  Orientating parafoil
                                                                                                                                    Nacelle
                                                                                                                   location
camera is not an official imaging mission because we will                                                                           (PVC)
                                                                                                    Fig. 4. New system of extraction
not transmit any picture during the flight.
                                                                  The slipping string is held by a hook inside the CanSat, and
                    IV.CANSAT ARCHITECTURE                        is released ten seconds after the extraction from the rocket.
                                                                  The string slips through the nodes and makes the nacelle
  A.Electrical architecture                                       rotate, releasing the main parafoil.
    Like the previous versions, Altaïr 3 is build around an
atxmega microcontroller. This microchip provides the
processing power needed and has the interfaces required for
the sensors during the missions.
   The sensors are:
     − GPS providing position altitude and direction
     − Magnetometer measuring the orientation of the
         CanSat
     − Sensor measuring an external atmospheric property
         (such as hygrometry, CO2 concentration, …)
                                                                                       Fig. 5. Steps of the extraction after stabilization
   A video camera is also embedded. It will be self powered
                                                                  The main development axis in mechanics will be now the
and isolated from the rest of the material so that we can
                                                                  parafoil, with more tests conducted and a development in
decide at the last moment where we will place it for more
                                                                  collaboration with Aerazur for better control and
suitable result.
                                                                  performances.

  B.Mechanical parts
                                                                    C.Telemetry
Mechanics for the structure will be the same as for Altaïr II:
                                                                  The CanSat is embedding a bi-directional commercial radio
a robust structure machined in polycarbonate, holding the
                                                                  transmitting 300mW centered on the 869.4 MHz frequency.
two servomotors, the GPS, radio and electronics chips as well
                                                                  Even though the module is already using channel coding
as the battery.
                                                                  techniques, we decided to improve its reliability by adding
                                                                  another layer of checksum.
                                                                      We are currently analyzing the feasibility of using a cell-
                                                                  phone antenna because cell-phones do work at similar
                                                                  frequencies and have unidirectional antennas of very small
                                                                  dimensions.
                                                                     On the ground, the reception is done using the same radio
                                                                  module, interfaced with a laptop via a USB/RS-232 cable.
                                                                  On the laptop, we run telemetry software providing real time
                                                                  display of data, possibility to command the CanSat (only
                                                                  used for testing situations) and recording of the mission.
                Fig. 3. Mechanical Structure of Altaïr.
D.Flight algorithm                                               response time of the system. By knowing this one should be
  One of the main developments of Altaïr 3 is the flight           able to direct the CanSat only having to do punctual
algorithm. The idea was to start it back from the beginning,       trajectory adjustments depending on external variations.
using the experience of past CanSats to design the new flight
algorithm.
   The first step was to build a simulator in C (language used
to program the atxmega) that allows to debug and run tests
without having to throw the CanSat from a bridge. The
simulator allows to easily test the robustness of the flight
algorithm in many different configurations even modeling
wind from statistical parameters.
   The flight algorithm is divided in two functionalities:
    − Trajectory planning which decides of an ideal
         trajectory to land on the target. This is the strategy
         followed to perform the come-back mission.
    − Servitude which makes sure that the CanSat follows
         the planned trajectory as closely as possible. This is
         the way the CanSat uses the servo motors to direct
         itself.

Those are complementary and independent which makes it
possible to change the strategy without loosing the progresses                                V.CONCLUSION
made on servitude.                                                    Despite a late beginning, the new Altaïr team is confident
    Trajectory planning is build from the main observation         that our CanSat will be a success. Altaïr is a long term
having been made after the previous flights: « the main            project and has already given great results. The upcoming
vector of trajectory changes is the wind ». Therefore wind is      developments are foreseen and scheduled. They will put of
the most important element of our trajectory planning. In          Altaïr III at the forefront of the current CanSat technology on
order to estimate it, the CanSat uses the measure of speed         every       aspects      :    ejection      system,    on-board
when it is still hanged to the stabilization parafoil. Moreover,   electronics/actuators, flight algorithm, telecommunications,
the wind's characteristics are updated during flight by            ground station etc. thanks to its experience.
measuring the difference between the magnetometer's data
and the GPS direction indicator.
                                                                                         ACKNOWLEDGMENT
Knowing the wind, the CanSat decides of a trajectory in 3
steps:                                                                Premium Partners: Fondation INSA de Lyon, Thalès,
    − Fly toward the wind plan (defined by a vector                Arianespace, Aerazur – Zodiac Aerospace, CPE Lyon
         representing the wind direction, the vertical axis and       Sponsors: CNES, Planète Sciences, Blox, NovaNano,
         containing the landing point)                             EADS Sodern, ATIS Systems, Cervin, Würth Elektronik,
    − Do circles to loose altitude while being driven              PELI, NeoMore, Le Progrès, EnjoySpace
         slightly behind the target by the wind                       We thank Planète Sciences to welcome us at their
    − Break and land on the target up wind                         experimental campaign.
                                                                      We thank DGA-EM to welcome us on their military base
Those 3 stages define 3 flight attitudes that have to be           for the flights demonstration of CanSat in 2011.
implemented on the servitude part:
    − Fly toward a point
    − Do circles
    − Break toward a point

The wind and position are constantly updated, in order to
continuously update the position where the CanSat has to
start circling, till reaching it.
An emergency break function is implemented if the flight
algorithm detects that a too strong wind prevents us from
reaching the target. This is implemented in order to insure
closed landing even in worst conditions.

   The servitude algorithm will be based on extensive testing
and analysis of videos of previous experience in order to
characterize the response of the parafoil and make sure that
we can manage to control and direct the CanSat as precisely
as possible. The main phenomenon taken in account is the

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Présentation Altaïr III C'Space 2011

  • 1. Altaïr III: a ComeBack CanSat to make atmospheric measurements Damien Lieber, Rafik Meziani, Sébastien Bonnart, Jérémy Carnus, Mohamed Mokhtari Abstract–Altaïr III is the third generation of the long-term Zodiac Aerospace and CPE Lyon, the project could finance CanSat project of the CLES-FACIL, and fifth CanSat its development as well as its presentation worldwide. generation of the club. Its missions are atmospheric The team counts four members: measurements and comeback. Thanks to a parafoil specifically - Rafik Meziani, technician in processes at CPE Lyon: developed for this project by Aerazur, it glides till its target, orientating itself with a GPS and the strings of the parafoil. in charge of the mechanical design and During the whole descent, it sends location and atmospheric communication data to the ground station with the onboard radio. - Damien Lieber, student in Mechanical Engineering and Development at INSA Lyon, 3rd year. I.INTRODUCTION - Sebastien Bonnart, student in Telecommunications at S INCE the very beginnings of CanSat programs in France, INSA Lyon, 5th year. the CLES-FACIL has always been at the frontline for the - Jérémy Carnus, student in Computer Sciences at INSA development of comeback CanSats. Starting from a first Lyon, 3rd year. embarked experiment in 2006, the Pole Technique of the association started a long term project in September 2009: Altaïr. Since then, it has been presented to the Spanish, American, Japanese and French experimental campaigns thanks to its sponsors. Altaïr won the 2nd prize of the Spanish competition and the CNES prize at the C’Space 2010. Fig. 2. Picture of the Altaïr team. B.Work plan Altaïr 3 only began during March because we had to do some knowledge transfer to the new team members on this project. Starting from this point, we went through the previous flight data of Altaïr and identified the main points to Fig. 1. Picture of Altaïr II be improved. We then planned our work in order to achieve these objectives. Next step was prioritizing those II.CONTEXT OF DEVELOPMENT tasks relying on interdependency and urgency. This process A.Club was done during team brainstorming. Each member works on The CLES-FACIL is the Space Experiments Association the current tasks which corresponds to its abilities, thus of INSA Lyon, a French engineering university located in parallelizing the progresses. Lyon. Concretely, we are divided in two teams : mechanical and Founded in 1967 by Alain Juge, a student passionated by electrical but in a very tight collaboration as a CanSat needs space technology and rockets, it stands now on a worldwide a very high level of integration. This is why we are having reputation and a large network of old members. Every year weekly meetings with the full team. On the development since 2007, the team participates to the C’Space campaign level, design of the solutions for Altaïr 3 is going to take 10 with its rocket and CanSat. days/men, fabrication/coding will take around 10 other days The CLES-FACIL also develops stratospheric balloons, and testing and adjustments around 25 days/men. water rockets and mini rockets, and holds animations for the However his fractioned vision is not realistic because the younger generations. development process is not that much linear. We are using Thanks to the help of our university, INSA Lyon, and our "Extreme programming" methods for the electronic part and precious sponsors such as Arianespace, Thalès, Aerazur – mechanical solutions usually begins by some tests.  The authors are with the club CLES-FACIL, 20 Avenue Albert Einstein – BDE INSA Lyon, F-69100 VILLEURBANNE, France. e-mail: clesfacil.insa- lyon.fr, website: http://altair.cles-facil.fr
  • 2. III.DEFINITION OF THE MISSIONS Following the extraction problem of the main parafoil observed in ARLISS, we developed a new stabilization A.Scientific Mission system based on an induced momentum on the CanSat’s Atmospheric measurements thanks to a pressure and nacelle. temperature sensor. The measurements are coupled with the altitude’s data from the GPS, using a Kalman filter to Stabilization parachute improve the precision. B.Free Mission As it always was, Altaïr is a comeback CanSat. Therefore the free mission is to land as close as possible from a target which GPS coordinates are known before the launch. This mission has been selected because it is the most challenging Support strings Fixed strings and fun one. Moreover we can make the most of Altaïr's flight heritage in order to be among the bests in this mission. Slipping string In addition to that, we intend to place a video camera on the Instantaneous Center of Rotation CanSat that will record the flight for both imagery purpose and knowledge gathering for future mission debriefing. This Orientating parafoil Nacelle location camera is not an official imaging mission because we will (PVC) Fig. 4. New system of extraction not transmit any picture during the flight. The slipping string is held by a hook inside the CanSat, and IV.CANSAT ARCHITECTURE is released ten seconds after the extraction from the rocket. The string slips through the nodes and makes the nacelle A.Electrical architecture rotate, releasing the main parafoil. Like the previous versions, Altaïr 3 is build around an atxmega microcontroller. This microchip provides the processing power needed and has the interfaces required for the sensors during the missions. The sensors are: − GPS providing position altitude and direction − Magnetometer measuring the orientation of the CanSat − Sensor measuring an external atmospheric property (such as hygrometry, CO2 concentration, …) Fig. 5. Steps of the extraction after stabilization A video camera is also embedded. It will be self powered The main development axis in mechanics will be now the and isolated from the rest of the material so that we can parafoil, with more tests conducted and a development in decide at the last moment where we will place it for more collaboration with Aerazur for better control and suitable result. performances. B.Mechanical parts C.Telemetry Mechanics for the structure will be the same as for Altaïr II: The CanSat is embedding a bi-directional commercial radio a robust structure machined in polycarbonate, holding the transmitting 300mW centered on the 869.4 MHz frequency. two servomotors, the GPS, radio and electronics chips as well Even though the module is already using channel coding as the battery. techniques, we decided to improve its reliability by adding another layer of checksum. We are currently analyzing the feasibility of using a cell- phone antenna because cell-phones do work at similar frequencies and have unidirectional antennas of very small dimensions. On the ground, the reception is done using the same radio module, interfaced with a laptop via a USB/RS-232 cable. On the laptop, we run telemetry software providing real time display of data, possibility to command the CanSat (only used for testing situations) and recording of the mission. Fig. 3. Mechanical Structure of Altaïr.
  • 3. D.Flight algorithm response time of the system. By knowing this one should be One of the main developments of Altaïr 3 is the flight able to direct the CanSat only having to do punctual algorithm. The idea was to start it back from the beginning, trajectory adjustments depending on external variations. using the experience of past CanSats to design the new flight algorithm. The first step was to build a simulator in C (language used to program the atxmega) that allows to debug and run tests without having to throw the CanSat from a bridge. The simulator allows to easily test the robustness of the flight algorithm in many different configurations even modeling wind from statistical parameters. The flight algorithm is divided in two functionalities: − Trajectory planning which decides of an ideal trajectory to land on the target. This is the strategy followed to perform the come-back mission. − Servitude which makes sure that the CanSat follows the planned trajectory as closely as possible. This is the way the CanSat uses the servo motors to direct itself. Those are complementary and independent which makes it possible to change the strategy without loosing the progresses V.CONCLUSION made on servitude. Despite a late beginning, the new Altaïr team is confident Trajectory planning is build from the main observation that our CanSat will be a success. Altaïr is a long term having been made after the previous flights: « the main project and has already given great results. The upcoming vector of trajectory changes is the wind ». Therefore wind is developments are foreseen and scheduled. They will put of the most important element of our trajectory planning. In Altaïr III at the forefront of the current CanSat technology on order to estimate it, the CanSat uses the measure of speed every aspects : ejection system, on-board when it is still hanged to the stabilization parafoil. Moreover, electronics/actuators, flight algorithm, telecommunications, the wind's characteristics are updated during flight by ground station etc. thanks to its experience. measuring the difference between the magnetometer's data and the GPS direction indicator. ACKNOWLEDGMENT Knowing the wind, the CanSat decides of a trajectory in 3 steps: Premium Partners: Fondation INSA de Lyon, Thalès, − Fly toward the wind plan (defined by a vector Arianespace, Aerazur – Zodiac Aerospace, CPE Lyon representing the wind direction, the vertical axis and Sponsors: CNES, Planète Sciences, Blox, NovaNano, containing the landing point) EADS Sodern, ATIS Systems, Cervin, Würth Elektronik, − Do circles to loose altitude while being driven PELI, NeoMore, Le Progrès, EnjoySpace slightly behind the target by the wind We thank Planète Sciences to welcome us at their − Break and land on the target up wind experimental campaign. We thank DGA-EM to welcome us on their military base Those 3 stages define 3 flight attitudes that have to be for the flights demonstration of CanSat in 2011. implemented on the servitude part: − Fly toward a point − Do circles − Break toward a point The wind and position are constantly updated, in order to continuously update the position where the CanSat has to start circling, till reaching it. An emergency break function is implemented if the flight algorithm detects that a too strong wind prevents us from reaching the target. This is implemented in order to insure closed landing even in worst conditions. The servitude algorithm will be based on extensive testing and analysis of videos of previous experience in order to characterize the response of the parafoil and make sure that we can manage to control and direct the CanSat as precisely as possible. The main phenomenon taken in account is the