Name USAT I (USAT-1)
Type CubeSat
Units or mass 3U
Status not launched, expected in 2025
Launcher not launched
Organization National University of La Plata
Institution University
Entity Academic / Education
Headquarters Argentina
Launch brokerer UARX

Demonstration of scientific techniques using GNSS for Earth observation.


USAT I is the first of a series of 5 CubeSats that the Faculty of Engineering is planning to build. In this case, it is a 3U CubeSat, that is, a small satellite that measures 10 cm by 10 cm by 34 cm and weighs around 4 kilos.

The team that carries out the initiative, made up of researchers from the Aerospace Technology Center (CTA) of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and the group of Electronic Navigation and Telecommunications Systems (SENyT) of the Department of Electrotechnics, received the components that will be part of the USAT I and will begin the assembly process soon.

Engineer Sonia Botta, project coordinator, indicated that the subsidy will be to cover part of the costs of the launch, which will be carried out through a Spanish company whose co-founders are Argentine. “UARX will be in charge of managing the launch service. That is, they are going to get us the space to put our satellite into orbit,” she said.

“The mission of this satellite will be the technological demonstration of scientific techniques using GNSS for Earth observation. These techniques that use GNSS signals allow atmospheric observations (pressure, temperature, humidity), depending on their orientation, or ground observations (for example, humidity, altimetry, soil roughness, vegetation),” said Marcos Actis, dean of Engineering. and director of the CTA.

GNSS radio occultation (GNSS-RO) is one of the most used techniques in atmospheric studies, both in the neutral region and in the ionosphere. Meanwhile, GNSS reflectometry (GNSS-R), which is a more recent technique, can be used to study the Earth's surface. “To be able to alternate between those two we have to be able to change our attitude, and these components will allow us to do that,” said the engineer.

They also received the printed circuits. In this sense, the SENyT group was in charge of the design, construction and testing of both the electronic board to manage communications between the satellite and an earth station, as well as their respective antennas, which work in S band and UHF. And now the electronic modules are being manufactured that estimate the orientation of the satellite from sensors and allow it to be modified within a certain operating range as appropriate for collecting data from the scientific mission," explained engineer Santiago Rodríguez, a member of the SENyT.

The engineer added that the satellite computer is also being manufactured, which is responsible for supervising and commanding the satellite electronics, as well as the payload, which will be a GPS receiver designed at the Faculty of Engineering aimed at satellite navigation.

“Our receiver, in addition to resolving the location of the satellite in space, will allow us to obtain data from radio occultation and reflectometry signals. The first uses GNSS signals to extract information from the atmosphere, while the other takes advantage of the bounces of these signals on the Earth's surface to characterize it. This mission will allow the validation of the five USAT I antennas, which were designed, built and are already tested by the SENyT. We will also be able to evaluate in orbit the performance of our GNSS receiver and the data obtained for demonstration of reflectometry and radio occultation.”

The nanosatellite modules are already designed and are under construction. “We have completed the integration of two modules, the attitude control or ADCS and the communications module (COM) and we have begun the development and testing of the flight software on a test and development platform that we designed called Flatsat.”, mentioned the engineer.

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Last modified: 2023-12-17

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