ESA announces successful Astrocast CubeSat test


Astrocast’s CubeSat was able to navigate in space using Galileo satellites and a low-cost, low-power European satnav receiver for positioning.


CubeSats are nanosatellites based on standardised 10 cm-sized units. Originally devised for educational uses, they are nowadays being put to commercial and technology testing uses. Astrocast is assembling a constellation based on CubeSats to serve the emerging ‘Internet of Things’. ESA navigation researchers supported ETH Zurich to fly a navigation payload  – composed of four low-cost multi-constellation mass-market satnav receiver modules plus two antennas – aboard a test CubeSat. This first Astrocast CubeSat was launched in December 2018, and the first results confirming the use of Galileo satellites for positioning were reported at the recent Galileo Science Colloquium in Zurich, typically demonstrating orbital positioning precision down to less than 5 m. ESA’s Galileo Navigation Science Office and GNSS Evolution are looking into extending this pioneering experience to perform more CubeSat-based experiments in space to test ideas for evolutions of European satnav systems and scientific experiments with Galileo, in partnership with universities and research institutions. “The purpose of this initiative was to demonstrate the capabilities of Galileo in orbit with a small, low-cost, low-power European satnav receiver. This will pave the way for future navigation experimentation, scientific experiments and technology demonstrations of Galileo in orbit with CubeSats and low-cost receivers for scientific activities,” explains ESA’s Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) R&D Principal Engineer Roberto Prieto Cerdeira. “Another first for Astrocast and its great partners at ETH Zürich, ESA using great technology from u-blox and GNSS signals from Galileo!”, commented Astrocast CEO Fabien Jordan on LinkedIn. More information can be found in an article on the ESA website. (Press release / SK)