A Student-Led Project for the Design of an Imaging CubeSat Payload

David Reid, Louis Timperley, Oliver Pike, Tom Etchells, James Hollingdale, Tom Goodwin, David Exton, Franco Labia, Vilius Stonkus, Michael O'Donnell, Charlie Leach, Vishnu Aadhithya Ravikumar, Will Proud, Gary Sutlieff, Karen Aplin, Lucy Berthoud, Andrei Sarua, Mark Schenk, Matthew Watson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


absorbing in the 8-12 micron window. 3D information is needed to be able to back-calculate dose
– this is a key parameter in managing airspace. To recreate the ash cloud, multiangle observations
are required – making a nadir-pointing satellite ideal to perform observations for this purpose.
Other mission objectives using the same instruments can also be realised, for example, as volcanic
ash clouds are the primary target, there is the possibility to map new magma extrusions, lava and
pyroclastic flow movements. Thermal infrared data has also previously been used to observe
volcanic cycles and better understand their behaviour. There is also the possibility of including
forest fires as targets of opportunity. The images required for 3D construction of ash clouds can
also be used to create digital elevation models of terrain around volcanos which have application
in disaster management and planning.
A CubeSat mission - Pointable Radiometer for Observing Volcanic Emissions (PROVE) - is proposed
to monitor the ash cloud using both thermal infrared and visual cameras. All requirements and
components were determined by students through trade-off studies. Each work package was
undertaken by undergraduate and postgraduate students (both as part of research projects and
on a voluntary extracurricular basis) supervised by academics. The resulting 1U+ payload consists
of a thermal infrared camera (FLIR Tau 2 with a 50mm lens), and 2 visual cameras (a narrow field
of view Basler ace ac5472-5gc with a Kowa LM75HC lens, and a 5MP Arducam with a 40 degree
lens as a wide field of view instrument). Alongside this, a payload computer to communicate with
the cameras and store data was selected (the Beaglebone Black Industrial) with a custom PCB
providing connections to the instruments and bus. The software to operate the payload takes the
form of a custom scheduler for an imaging pass, sending commands to the camera systems (and
to the bus) to take the required multiangle images for ash cloud reconstruction.
The payload is currently in the final design and testing stage, with vibration and vacuum testing, as
well as FlatSat testing before the final manufacture and integration of the payload. There is the
possibility of a UK launch later this year.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEGU 2022
PublisherEuropean Geosciences Union
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2022
EventEGU General Assembly 2022 - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 23 May 202227 Jun 2022


ConferenceEGU General Assembly 2022
Abbreviated titleEGU 2022
Internet address

Structured keywords

  • Engineering Education Research Group


Dive into the research topics of 'A Student-Led Project for the Design of an Imaging CubeSat Payload'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this