FSSCat – towards federated Earth observation systems

Department of Signal Theory and Communications (COMMSENSLAB)

Copernicus Masters “ESA Sentinel Small Satellite Challenge” Prize 2017 and overall Copernicus Masters winner awarded to the FSSCat

FSSCat is an innovative satellite mission concept, consisting of two federated (“assembled”) 6U Cubesats in support of the Copernicus Land and Marine Environment services. These modules carry a variety of advanced electronics and measurement instruments: a dual microwave payload (a GNSS-Reflectometer and a L-band radiometer with interference detection/mitigation), and a multi-spectral optical payload to measure soil moisture, ice extent and thickness, and to detect melting ponds over ice. An included radio/optical inter-satellite link and an Iridium inter-satellite link to test some of the techniques and technologies for upcoming satellite federations.

FSSCat will be the precursor of a constellation of federated small satellites for Earth observation achieving high temporal resolution and moderate spatial resolution in a cost-effective manner. Thomas Beer, ESA’s Copernicus Policy Coordinator, said: “The Federated Satellite System 6U tandem mission for sea ice and soil moisture monitoring captured the interest of the challenge experts immediately. Not only because the mission concept shows a high degree of well thought-through technical novelties, but also because it will provide data that is complementary to the Sentinel fleet. This is especially true for the soil moisture monitoring component, which is not part of the current Sentinel portfolio.”

As a conclusion, Dr. Beer added: “The FSSCat mission development is good to go and due to its disruptive approach, we are confident that it will be seen as a breakthrough in procuring future small missions at ESA.” A starting point indeed for further developments in satellite technology and mission planning.