Satellite name Quetzal-1 (Guatemala CubeSat, Guatesat-1, GTCube)
Spacecraft type CubeSat
Units or mass 1U
Status Reentry 2022-03-01. Was operational until 2020-11-XX. (Paper published on 2023-12-06)
Launched 2020-03-07
NORAD ID 45598
Deployer J-SSOD (JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer)
Launcher Falcon 9 (CRS-20)
Deployment Deployed from ISS on 2020-04-28
Entity name University of the Valley of Guatemala
Institution University
Entity Academic / Education
Headquarters Guatemala
Launch brokerer KiboCUBE

Educational training and take pictures of Earth plus amateur radio communications.


A monochromatic camera, alongside a rotating mechanism that holds and changes between four optical filters, will be used to test the remote sensing capabilities of the satellite. Contribute in the educational field in Guatemala, motivating and educating citizens, specially children, young people and the local Amateur Radio Club


Design and On-Orbit Performance of the Attitude Determination and Passive Control System for the Quetzal-1 CubeSat.

Academic development and space operations of a multispectral imaging payload for 1U CubeSats

The first decoded beacon was received ∼1 h later at 16:43:55 UTC, marking the start of the commissioning phase of the satellite.

The commissioning phase lasted from deployment through June 2020 and did not yet include payload checks. Health data received from the satellite confirmed that the EPS subsystem was able to adequately harvest, store, and distribute the energy required for nominal operations on orbit.4 The telemetry also confirmed that the ADCS had successfully detumbled the satellite, and that the average angle between the camera boresight and Nadir was 48.06 deg0.88 deg (99% CI) when the satellite was passing over Guatemala. This angle was deemed adequate to capture pictures of the Earth’s surface with the on-board camera, based on the payload’s optical design.

After the commissioning phase of the mission, communication tests were performed to determine the most effective way of commanding the satellite during payload operations. It was determined that each command needed to be sent as a batch of six repeating command packets. This maximized the probability that the command would be successfully received by the omnidirectional antennas of the satellite. It was determined that passes with a maximum elevation >40 deg were adequate to execute picture capture and download processes. The satellite could be easily commanded at elevations >30 deg. At lower elevations, the communication link became irregular.

The watchdog reset timer that rebooted the OBC every 2 h ensured that the satellite always returned to its nominal configuration even if the reconfiguration commands sent after picture download were not successfully received by the satellite due to low elevation, or otherwise.

The piezoelectric motor rotated ∼1812 times in space. This estimate was calculated by counting the times it rotated when it reconfigured itself to its 0 deg position after an OBC watchdog timer reset, and adding the successful payload operations detailed in the next section.

A total of 20 pictures were captured and 16 of those were downloaded. Five were all-black images due to reduced lighting during eclipse conditions, another five were all-white images showing little to no details, suggesting a potential limitation on the camera’s AEC capabilities.

Quetzal-1 mission reached its end of mission due to battery failure following repeated subzero temperature exposures. Although the battery heaters showed appropriate performance during the life of the satellite, it is believed the OBC failed to command the heater to activate as a result of a Payload-OBC I2C bus hang, based on preflight testing.

Failure cause Battery failure following repeated subzero temperature exposures. OBC likely failed to enable the heater.
Sources [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]
Photo sources [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
COTS subsystems
  • OBC - GomSpace NanoMind A3200
  • TRANSCEIVER - GomSpace NanoCom AX100
Subsystems sources [1]
Space photos Quetzal-1


Last modified: 2023-12-21

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