GreenCube Satellite

Spacecraft name GreenCube (Italy-OSCAR 117, IO-117)
Type CubeSat
Units or mass 3U
Status Operational (Not identified on Space-Trak as of 2022-12-19. Operational as per IAC 2023 paper. Last checked 2023-10-02)
Launched 2022-07-13
NORAD ID 53106
Deployer ISIPOD [ISISpace]
Launcher Vega C
Entity name Sapienza University of Rome
Institution University
Entity Academic / Education
Nation Italy
Launch brokerer SAB Launch Services
Partners University of Naples “Federico II”, ENEA, The Sapienza Space Systems and Space Surveillance Laboratory (S5Lab)

Test an autonomous laboratory for the cultivation of microgreens on-board a CubeSat platform.


The spacecraft is aimed at hosting an autonomous cultivation laboratory, a BLSS aimed at cultivating brassicacae microgreens in space. The spacecraft merges a mature bus, composed of part of the same components that were already assembled on 1KUNS-PF and LEDSAT, with a unique payload: a 2-Units large pressurized vessel hosting all the needed equipment for allowing the growth of microgreens.

The main mission is devoted to an experiment in plants growing in a microgravity environment, with a miniaturized life-support system including the environment sensors (CO2, O2, temperature, pressure) and a micro-camera installed internally to the system to assess the plant growing status. The payload is able to monitor and control the chamber air composition (with particular regards to the CO2, oxygen and VOC components), the chamber humidity, lighting (through a LED matrix optimized for inducing less stress in the plant growth), air recirculation (through an air fan used to mitigate the air composition inside the chamber). Cameras and other sensors are placed in the pressurized chamber inner volume to monitor the plant growth and health status.

The satellite will demonstrate the effectiveness and well-functioning of the briefly described autonomous, miniaturized BLSS for plants cultivation on-board small satellite. The spacecraft mission concept won a launch opportunity offered by ESA on-board the Maiden VEGA-C launch, that will aim at a 6000 km, 70 degrees inclination orbit. The survival of the plants in the extreme micro-gravity and radiative environment will be assessed during the mission.

The main radioamateur aim of the mission is testing a digipeater system in this “above- LEO” spacecraft, capable to reach a very large portion of the Earth, both in real time and in a “store and forward” configuration.

The radioamateur/educational aim of the mission is testing a communication system capable to download unique pictures of the Earth, taken by an educational (low definition) camera placed externally form the satellite. In addition, the telemetry will be downlinked periodically with public formats and will provide a clear picture of the behavior of the hardware in the space environment.

Finally, information on the survival of electronics in the inner Van Allen belt, will be gained for radio amateur future missions. The radioamateur/educational return of the mission for the students involved will focus on the experimental activity for the development and management of a digital radio communication system suitable for a distant orbit in a very adverse radiation environment, within the inner VanAllen belt. 

Sapienza Space Systems and Space Surveillance Laboratory (S5Lab) has developed a 3U CubeSat that was launched on-board the VEGA-C maiden flight to MEO, on a 6000-km-high highly-inclined circular orbit, on the July 13, 2022. The CubeSat, named GreenCube, was jointly developed thanks to a cooperation agreement between Sapienza and the Italian Space Agency, with the collaboration of ENEA and University of Naples “Federico II”. The main mission aim was demonstrating the functionality of a CubeSat-size plant cultivation facility and at studying for the automated production of microgreens in MEO.

The satellite also hosted secondary payloads such as a propulsion system for back-up attitude control, developed by the Institute of Space Systems at University of Stuttgart, and a radio-amateur digipeater, developed together with the AMSAT Community and currently operating in-orbit. These nano-satellite operations required changes in the TT&C operations typical of CubeSats. In particular, the mission used a S-Band telemetry station (thanks to the collaboration with the ASI Broglio Space Center team in Malindi, Kenya), data-rate was reduced to 300bps, tracking and management strategies involved passes of around one hour each and observability times of several hours per day.


The GreenCube 3U+ CubeSat, launched on 13 July 2022 in MEO, has allowed extended operations of a nano-satellite in Medium Earth Orbit.

The spacecraft was aimed at testing a cultivation unit on-board a CubeSat platform in MEO for the cultivation of microgreens in an extremely challenging radiation environment. A secondary payload, a propulsion system, was implemented and tested. The satellite equips and currently operates an amateur radio digipeater in MEO.

The spacecraft is still operational after 14 months of mission, against the initial predictions of few months of activity, given the environmental conditions of the selected orbit. The satellite operations in MEO have allowed to gather many lessons learned on how to conduct UHF operations, including the modulation of baud rate with respect to elevation and the scheduling of conventionally executed operations, such as telemetry down link, high fidelity data (mainly for attitude determination) down link, software upgrade and in-orbit patching, etc.

While major modifications were considered, with respect to the standard S5Lab bus architecture for CubeSats, on the space segment, the ground segment required minor modifications for the UHF link at ground. The operations were conducted nominally. The extended usage of an amateur radio digipeater developed by the team allowed the radio amateur community to take advantage of a peculiar mission profile, allowing for intercontinental QSL, while lessons learned were gathered by the team for future amateur radio payload operations.

Sources [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]
Photo sources [1]
Subsystems sources [1] [2]
Keywords MEO orbit, Beyond LEO orbit, Propulsion
On the same launch

Last modified: 2023-12-24

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