Spacecraft name SAGE
Spacecraft type CubeSat
Units or mass 3U
Status not launched, expected in 2025
Launcher not launched
Entity name ETH Zurich (Federal Institute of Technology)
Institution University
Entity type Academic / Education
Country Switzerland
Partners ARIS (Akademische Raumfahrt Initiative Schweiz)

Investigate the aging process of human cells in the microgravity and UHF to S-Band linear transponder.


SAGE is a 3U CubeSat that will be a technology demonstrator and amateur mission combined. We will investigate the aging process, more specifically senescence, of human cells in the microgravity of low earth orbit. Since these experiments will only last 3 months, we included a “second life” amateur mission in our project from the start.

We developed a new amateur payload (UHF to S-Band linear transponder) to be used until our planned mission ends after 3 years. The amateur payload is planned to be used to foster interest in the STEM field as well as the amateur radio community in students. The biological payload experiment will also transmit on amateur radio frequencies in the first 3 months.

The results of the experiment will be transmitted publicly (including images of a microscope observing the microfluidic chip with the human cancer cells). Also, these subsystems will be controlled using the same amateur frequencies that will be used to control the amateur payload. Our CubeSat is a technology demonstrator of a student association.

The mission statements are listed below. The main goal of the association is to bring an educational benefit to students by providing them “hands-on experience” in different space related projects.

  1. Provide and operate a satellite platform in space as an educational project and contribute to scientific research
  2. Investigate the aging of human cells under microgravity of low earth orbit for future space exploration.
  3. Develop and host an amateur radio payload, a linear transponder, and an ETH Zurich developed GNSS module.

SAGE shall inspire young students for STEM education and space related studies. We also want to promote the amateur radio community to a large audience of young students doing an engineering education at one of our partner universities. We are part of ESAs “Fly Your Satellite” program and already are well connected with other CubeSat teams through Europa. Since our main mission experiments will not last very long, we included a self-developed amateur payload from the beginning of the project to give the satellite a purpose after completing the science with the human cancer cells.

We developed our own UHF to S-Band linear transponder that amateur operators can use to make QSOs or experiments with a new challenge of having to set up an S-Band ground station with a tracking dish or large yagi antenna. We think this will also have a positive effect on the number of S-Band ground stations in the SatNOGS network. We also plan to publish our antenna design of the UHF and S-Band antenna open source. Since we have the possibility to measure our antennas in an anechoic chamber at ETH we think we can develop a good open source alternative to the available COTS solutions. This will enable future student missions to use cheaper, validated hardware. Also, we are working very closely with the SatNOGS COMMS team in developing the FPGA code for the open source SatNOGS COMMS transceiver. This will again enable a lot of future missions to use a state-of-the-art open source transceiver instead of expensive COTS components. We will probably be one of the first CubeSats to launch the SatNOGS COMMS transceiver. Once the amateur payload mission is ongoing, we want to train student and future CubeSat projects in operating a CubeSat from our mission operation center at ETH.

Sources [1] [2] [3] [4]

Last modified: 2023-12-17

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