A survey and assessment of the capabilities of Cubesats for Earth observation Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • In less than a decade, Cubesats have evolved from purely educational tools to a standard platform for technology demonstration and scientific instrumentation. The use of COTS (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) components and the ongoing miniaturization of several technologies have already led to scattered instances of missions with promising scientific value. Furthermore, advantages in terms of development cost and development time with respect to larger satellites, as well as the possibility of launching several dozens of Cubesats with a single rocket launch, have brought forth the potential for radically new mission architectures consisting of very large constellations or clusters of Cubesats. These architectures promise to combine the temporal resolution of GEO missions with the spatial resolution of LEO missions, thus breaking a traditional trade-off in Earth observation mission design. This paper assesses the current capabilities of Cubesats with respect to potential employment in Earth observation missions. A thorough review of Cubesat bus technology capabilities is performed, identifying potential limitations and their implications on 17 different Earth observation payload technologies. These results are matched to an exhaustive review of scientific requirements in the field of Earth observation, assessing the possibilities of Cubesats to cope with the requirements set for each one of 21 measurement categories. Based on this review, several Earth observation measurements are identified that can potentially be compatible with the current state-of-the-art of Cubesat technology although some of them have actually never been addressed by any Cubesat mission. Simultaneously, other measurements are identified which are unlikely to be performed by Cubesats in the next few years due to insuperable constraints. Ultimately, this paper is intended to supply a box of ideas for universities to design future Cubesat missions with high scientific payoff. 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

published proceedings

  • ACTA ASTRONAUTICA

altmetric score

  • 4

author list (cited authors)

  • Selva, D., & Krejci, D.

citation count

  • 261

complete list of authors

  • Selva, Daniel||Krejci, David

publication date

  • January 1, 2012 11:11 AM