Meet the team: 3Cat-4

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ESA / Education / CubeSats - Fly Your Satellite!

The ³Cat-4 project promotes the design, development, and operation of a 1U CubeSat for Earth Observation. In particular, it aims at combining a GNSS-Reflectometer, a Radiometer, and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver in a single satellite platform.

3Cat-4 team logo
3Cat-4 team logo

The main mission objective is educational, by training a group of students in the techniques and methodologies applied in space programs, and to conduct teamwork with a sense of responsibility. In a second plane, the mission has several scientific and technological objectives, as follows:

  1. Assess the relative sensitivity of Global Navigation Satellite System reflectometry (GNSS-R) observables (waveform peak amplitude and maximum derivative delay) at different frequency bands (i.e. L1 and L2).
  2. Assess the impact of the required ionospheric corrections (i.e. different delays of the reflected signals at different bands).
  3. Evaluate the potential applications of GNSS-R over land surfaces, and in particular to infer soil moisture and vegetation biomass, with special focus over forests, where other missions are not able to due to RFI (e.g. at UHF band).
  4. Assess Radio Frequency Interferences (RFI) detection and mitigation techniques for digital radiometers.
  5. Create RFI maps about L1, L2 frequencies and the protected band from 1400 to 1427 MHz.
  6. Validate the design of an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver for space-borne applications.
Rendering of 3Cat-4 in deployed configuration
Rendering of 3Cat-4 in deployed configuration

This mission becomes a demonstration of the CubeSat capacity to provide Earth Observation service, and thus it is expected that this mission motivates future projects with the same purpose.

The team

This major project can only be accomplished by the combination of efforts and knowledge of the different faculties of the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC). This is reflected on the heterogeneous team, which is composed of telecommunications, aeronautical, aerospace, and industrial engineering students. This project becomes thus an educational experience in the space domain for all these students.

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) is a Spanish university specialized in Engineering, Architecture and Science. Its research and education are extended for different disciplines thanks to the work performed in each department that composes the university. The Nano-Satellite and Payload Laboratory (UPC NanoSat Lab) is focused on the exploration of innovative small spacecraft systems and subsystems. Among all its projects, nanosatellite ones have been the most interdisciplinary ones.

The team has already a background experience with CubeSat project, having launched ³Cat-1 (the first Catalan CubeSat) and ³Cat-2 already. The ³Cat-3 project is currently on hold. The same team is also foreseeing the development of a pair of twin CubeSats called ³Cat-5-A and ³Cat-5-B, called FSSCat mission.

CubeSat quick facts

Payload GNSS-Reflectometer
This payload processes the reflected Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals onto the Earth surface to evaluate different properties (ice level, deforestation, etc).
A Total Power Radiometer that measures the brightness temperature of a region defined by the antenna footprint.
AIS receiver
VHF receiver used to work with the Automatic Identification System (AIS) of the vessels. This payload enables to track maritime and fluvial vessels trajectory.
Ground station Ground Station Montsec
Placed in the pre-Pyrinees of Catalonia, this new ground station becomes ideal for large communications (noise-free space environment)
Ground Station Barcelona
First ground station placed in the same campus of the laboratory, and used in previous missions
Dimensions Stowed: <98.4 mm, 98.4 mm, 113.5 mm>
Deployed: <605.18 mm, 285.18 mm, 595.75 mm>
Mass 1186.57 g
Power consumption 1.11 W (nominal)
Solar panels Five solar panels. Each one with two series-connected AzurSpace 3G30A solar cells. Body mounted.
Mission lifetime Between 8 and 26 months
3Cat-4 team
3Cat-4 team