Spacecraft VISTA
Form factor CubeSat
Units or mass 3U
Entity name MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Institution University
Entity Academic / Education
Headquarters US
Manufacturer AIVT by NanoAvionics
Launch brokerer NASA CSLI / ELaNa

Terrestrial auroral science and radio interferometric
technology demonstration.


Technology demonstration mission in a polar orbit that will advance our ability to perform radio interferometry using CubeSats in space. This mission is a technical pathfinder that leverages the Auroral Emission Radio Observer (AERO) CubeSat project by duplicating that satellite in a build-to-print manner. VISTA will launch at the same time as AERO. The experiment will use the two CubeSats in orbit and combine them with ground-based beacons and receivers to demonstrate the performance advantages of Vector Sensor Interferometry relative to conventional approaches.

Terrestrial auroral science and radio interferometric technology demonstration. The AERO and VISTA CubeSats both host vector sensing antenna systems providing advanced electromagnetic capabilities. Together, they will provide the first in-space demonstration of interferometric imaging, beamforming, and nulling using electromagnetic vector sensors at low frequencies (100 kHz – 15 MHz).

A key goal of the joint missions’ technology demonstration is to validate theoretical sensor performance modeling indicating that interferometric arrays composed of vector sensors will be able to maintain sensitivity even in the presence of terrestrial interference. If validated in flight, this capability would relax the requirement that space-based low frequency interferometers be placed far from the Earth (e.g. lunar orbit), and the closer communications range will significantly increase the data volume returned from space-based radio telescope systems.

VISTA’s objectives, achieved in concert with AERO, are:

  1. Validate algorithms for, and sensitivity advantages of, vector sensor interferometry;
  2. Apply vector sensor interferometry to auroral radio emissions; and
  3. Perform a survey of the low frequency RFI environment in low Earth orbit to assess the suitability of the environment for future multi-element interferometric constellations.

The VISTA CubeSat bus will be procured and integrated by Morehead State University (MSU). The VS payload will be developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory (MIT-LL) and integrated by MIT Haystack Observatory (MIT-HO).

Sources [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]
Photo sources [1] [2]
COTS subsystems
  • PLATFORM - NanoAvionics

Related Spacecraft

Name Status Launcher Launch date Orbit
AERO (Auroral Emission Radio Observer, AERO-VISTA) not launched not launched 2024-12-26 not launched
VISTA (Vector Interferometry Space Technology using AERO, AERO-VISTA) not launched not launched 2024-12-26 not launched

Last modified: 2023-12-15

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Created by Erik Kulu


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