Alticube+ winner of the ESA SysNova Challenge on CubeSat Swarms

Following the post on the Alticube+ study for the ESA OSIP call on CubeSat swarms based instruments, things became particularly exciting at the end of April 2024.

Alticube+ was one of the 7 projects that were selected by ESA from 74 ideas to perform a short design study. In a two day session final presentations of the 7 were given to the selection committee. At the end of the meetings on 26/4/2024 the committee announced that Alticube+ and Comcube-S were the winners and both got awarded an elaboration study in ESA’s Concurrent Design Facility (CDF). This means that with assistance from 20 -25 ESA specialists the design is further matured during 4 session days in the CDF.

More information on the OSIP process can be found here:

The CDF study was an intense period, that was successfully concluded in time on 14/6/2024 with a picture of most of the participants.

The matured designs will receive a phase-A study, aiming at a potential In-Orbit-Demonstration by 2027. For Alticube+ the IOD mission currently foresees two 16U CubeSats that will be launched in a polar orbit around 500 km. After ejection from the launcher they will perform a docking manoeuvre. Once connected, a ~2 meter boom is extended and the antennas on each platform are deployed. The system operates a Ku-band radar interferometer that observes 18 km swaths left and right from nadir. The goal is to observe relative ocean-heights to study oceanographic features, including eddies, fronts, etc. Over land the system can operate in a hydrology mode to observe with high resolution water levels in canals, lakes, rivers, etc.

After IOD, the full operational system will consist of 5 satellites and will have more powerful capabilities. A constellation of three of these systems can observe the globe roughly every 3 weeks.

In the coming half year a consortium has to be organized in NL-RIA that will be capable of performing the phase A study. It has to combine expertise from many disciplines.