DARLA Satellite

Satellite name DARLA (Demonstration of Artificial Reasoning, Learning, and Analysis)
Spacecraft type CubeSat
Units or mass 3U
Status not launched, expected in 2024
Launcher not launched, (ELaNa 42)
Organization Saint Louis University
Institution University
Entity type Academic / Education
Headquarters US

Educational mission to test spacecraft platform and on-board event detection using commercial imagers and SDRs.


train undergraduate students in the entire spacecraft lifecycle (concept through operations). The mission will demonstrate key technologies for onboard science event detection and response.

A 3U Cubesat mission with the following objectives.

  1. Train university students in all aspects of space mission engineering (concept through design through assembly & test through flight operations).
  2. Flight-test the bus components built by university students and characterize performance.
  3. Demonstrate the software to perform event detection using commercial imagers and SDRs

The spacecraft carries a software-defined-radio receiver and generates an on-board dynamic UHF map of the world. Using this map as a baseline, the spacecraft will then entire into science mode where it attempts to detect new RF events and geolocate them. We plan to have our mission benefit the amateur radio service and community as a whole via our experiment of RF detection.

The spacecraft carries software-defined-radios (receiving only) that scan the UHF and VHF bands for emissions (center frequency and RSSI only; no decoding). In addition to more detailed data collected on board, the spacecraft will broadcast near-real-time updates of the RF environment in a twice-per-minute short packet burst. The nominal design is to broadcast the center frequency and RSSI detected for the six loudest signals in UHF and VHF bands. However, those the particulars can be adjusted if a different set of data would be of more use to the radio amateur community.

We believe that this information can not only showcase to both our students and the general public the application of radio analysis, but also radio amateurs in revealing possible interference issues on the ground. Furthermore, we believe that amateur radio operators can help contribute to the mission by communicating RF events they may have detected on the ground to see if this same event was detected via our satellite.

Lastly, with the ability to upload new experiments are just a few ideas we have in benefitting both the amateur satellite service as well as amateurs around the globe.

The payload for DARLA is fairly simple. The spacecraft requires a computer that can run the ARES software, in this case, a Raspberry Pi, and sensors to collect event data. The payload sensors flown on the satellite are a Software Defined Radio (SDR) and a Raspberry Pi Camera Module. Those are all the components required to gather meaningful data to share with the network.

The DARLA mission was initially developed under the name DORRE as a part of the University Nanosatellite Program, UNP NS-10. After not being selected for phase B, all hardware procured under NS-10 was turned into flight hardware for DARLA, with the purpose of a demonstration mission for DORRE. DORRE is currently under development under the University Nanosatellite Program, UNP NS-11 cycle.

Sources [1] [2] [3]
Photo sources [1]

Last modified: 2024-05-29

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Created by Erik Kulu

Email: erik.kulu@nanosats.eu
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