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International Journal of Aerospace Engineering
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 549080, 9 pages
Research Article

A Low-Cost Photodiode Sun Sensor for CubeSat and Planetary Microrover

Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering, York University, 4700 Keele St., Toronto, ON, Canada M3J 1P3

Received 21 July 2013; Accepted 4 November 2013

Academic Editor: Hui Hu

Copyright © 2013 Mark A. Post et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper presents the development of low-cost methodologies to determine the attitude of a small, CubeSat-class satellite and a microrover relative to the sun's direction. The use of commercial hardware and simple embedded designs has become an effective path for university programs to put experimental payloads in space for minimal cost, and the development of sensors for attitude and heading determination is often a critical part. The development of two compact and efficient but simple coarse sun sensor methodologies is presented in this research. A direct measurement of the solar angle uses a photodiode array sensor and slit mask. Another estimation of the solar angle uses current measurements from orthogonal arrays of solar cells. The two methodologies are tested and compared on ground hardware. Testing results show that coarse sun sensing is efficient even with minimal processing and complexity of design for satellite attitude determination systems and rover navigation systems.