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VTT’s miniaturised spectral cameras utilised in nanosatellite missions

14.10.2012


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VTT’s miniaturised spectral cameras utilised in nanosatellite missions

VTT has been granted €800,000 in funding by the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop small, lightweight hyperspectral imagers for nanosatellite missions. Nanosatellites, small satellites consisting of 10x10x10 cm3 standard units and weighing ca. 1–10 kg, are a rising trend in space technology for remote sensing of the Earth and for atmospheric studies.

Nanosatellites can be used as “swarms”, operating in contact with each other. The grand idea is that companies can have a satellite of their own operable in about 3 months instead of the typical 10 years, with minimal costs through the use of standardised units and launch services. The EU-funded QB50 consortium is one example of current development in the field (https://www.qb50.eu/).

VTT’s spectral camera module has been selected as the main payload for the Aalto-1 satellite mission (https://wiki.aalto.fi/display/SuomiSAT/Summary). The mission provides a unique flight opportunity for small technology demonstration experiments. With a volume of 34x10x10 cm3 and mass 4 kg, the satellite is equipped with a high bandwidth S-Band downlink more suitable for transferring spectral images than traditional vhf/uhf solutions. VTT’s camera will be used to monitor vegetation, etc.

VTT has already developed a small spectral camera for unmanned aerial vehicles weighing less than 500 g. This camera is based on VTT’s novel tuneable optical filter (Fabry-Perot interferometer). A full 2D image is captured through a selected transmission band that is tuned between individual captures. The resulting hyperspectral cube consisting of ca. 30 spectral bands can be captured in ca. 1.5 s. Georeferencing of the individual frames is performed to combine the frames.

The main advantages of VTT’s concept for nanosatellite applications are the small size and the spectral programmability, which provides flexibility and reduced data rate when the application is well defined. A successful space qualification and orbit demonstration will enable more advanced instruments based on piezo and MEMS Fabry-Perot interferometer technologies.

Additional information:

Jarkko Antila
Team Leader, Photonic sensors modules
Tel. +358 50 529 8876
jarkko.antila@vtt.fi

Aalto-1 video
(Pictures and video: Pekka Laurila and the Aalto-1 team, Aalto University)