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VTT develops a miniaturized spectral camera for ESA’s Picasso nanosatellite mission


VTT will deliver the Visible Spectral Imager for Occultation and Nightglow (VISION) for the PICASSO mission. The VISION instrument is a small, lightweight, tunable spectral imager operating in the visible and near-infrared spectra (430 – 800 nm). It targets primarily the observation of the Earth's atmospheric limb during orbital Sun occultation. By assessing the radiation absorption in the Chappuis band for different tangent altitudes, the vertical profile of the ozone is retrieved. A secondary objective is to measure the deformation of the solar disk so that stratospheric and mesospheric temperature profiles are retrieved by inversion of the refractive ray-tracing problem. Finally, occasional full-spectral observations of polar auroras are also foreseen.

This miniaturized hyper-spectral imager developed by VTT will be carried as the primary payload of the PICASSO In-Orbit-Demonstration (IOD) CubeSat mission. The optimization of the VISION design for the PICASSO mission is expected to result in stratospheric ozone measurements to 5% accuracy with a vertical resolution of 2 km after post-processing. Thus, VISION will be one of the first CubeSat optical payloads capable of providing real atmospheric science data. It is based on VTT Fabry-Perot Interferometer technology and on VTT's knowledge acquired while developing the Aalto-1 Spectral Imager for the first Finnish satellite which will be launched in Autumn 2015 ( VTT will deliver the Flight Model of the VISION instrument in February 2016. The PICASSO CubeSat is planned to be launched as part of the QB50 programme in summer 2016.

PICASSO - A PICo-satellite for Atmospheric and Space Science Observations  is  an  ESA project  led  by  the  Belgian  Institute  for  Space  Aeronomy, in collaboration with VTT, Clyde Space Ltd. (UK), Centre Spatial de Liège (BE) and the Royal Observatory of Belgium. It aims at building and operating a scientific triple-unit CubeSat. With a payload composed of two scientific instruments, it will contribute to the determination of the ozone distribution in the stratosphere, the temperature profile up to the mesosphere and the electron density in the ionosphere.

CubeSats, small satellites consisting of 10x10x10 cm3 standard units and weighing up to 1.3 kg per unit, are rising trend in space technology, for remote sensing of the Earth as well as atmospheric studies. These nanosatellites can be used as "swarms", being in contact with each other. The grand idea is that companies can have a satellite of their own up and running in about 3 months instead of the typical 10 years, with minimal costs due to standardized units and launch services. The EU-funded QB50 consortium is one example of the development going on in the field ( ).