Aalto-1 nanosatellite: Technical description and mission objectives

Antti Kestilä, T. Tikka, P. Peitso, J. Rantanen, Antti Näsilä, K. Nordling, Heikki Saari, R. Vainio, P. Janhunen, J. Praks, M. Hallikainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


This work presents the outline and so far completed design of the Aalto-1 science mission. Aalto-1 is a multi-payload remote-sensing nanosatellite, built almost entirely by students. The satellite aims for a 500–900 km sun-synchronous orbit and includes an accurate attitude dynamics and control unit, a UHF/VHF housekeeping and S-band data links, and a GPS unit for positioning (radio positioning and NORAD TLE's are planned to be used as backup). It has three specific payloads: a spectral imager based on piezo-actuated Fabry–Perot interferometry, designed and built by The Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT); a miniaturised radiation monitor (RADMON) jointly designed and built by Universities of Helsinki and Turku; and an electrostatic plasma brake designed and built by the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), derived from the concept of the e-sail, also originating from FMI. Two phases are important for the payloads, the technology demonstration and the science phase. The emphasis is placed on technological demonstration of the spectral imager and RADMON, and suitable targets have already been chosen to be completed during that phase, while the plasma brake will start operation in the latter part of the science phase. The technology demonstration will be over in a relatively short time, while the science phase is planned to last two years. The science phase is divided into two smaller phases: the science observations phase, during which only the spectral imager and RADMON will be operated for 6–12 months and the plasma brake demonstration phase, which is dedicated to the plasma brake experiment for at least a year. These smaller phases are necessary due to the drastically different power, communication and attitude requirements of the payloads. The spectral imager will be by far the most demanding instrument on board, as it requires most of the downlink bandwidth, has a high peak power and attitude performance. It will acquire images in a series up to at least 20 spectral bands within the 500–900 nm spectral range, forming the desired spectral data cube product. Shortly before an image is acquired, the parallel visual spectrum camera will take a broader picture for comparison. Also stereoscopic imaging is planned. The amount of data collected by the spectral imager is adjustable, and ranges anywhere from 10 to 500 MB. The RADMON will be on 80% of an orbit period on average and together with housekeeping data will gather around 2 MB of data in 24 h. An operational limitation is formed due to the S-band downlink capability of 29–49 MB per 24 h for a 500 900 km orbit altitude, as only one ground station is planned to be available for the satellite. This will limit both type and quantity of spectral imager images taken during the science phase. The plasma brake will in turn be within an angle of 20° over the poles for efficient use of the Earth's magnetic field and ionosphere during its spin-up and operation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-130
JournalGeoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2013
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • hyperspectral sensors
  • multispectral image sensors
  • remote sensing
  • Fabry-Perot interferometer
  • piezo actuators
  • imaging spectrometer
  • UAV
  • airbone
  • medical imaging
  • precision agriculture
  • target detection


Dive into the research topics of 'Aalto-1 nanosatellite: Technical description and mission objectives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this