Project Overview

(For a Dutch version, click on the flag at the upper right)


The Dutch knowledge network on small spaceborne radar instruments and applications (acronym NL-RIA) aims at strengthening the international position of The Netherlands in the field of spaceborne microwave remote sensing instruments, missions and applications by establishing a long-lasting network of scientific and knowledge institutes, companies and governmental agencies.

The initial specific objectives of the NL-RIA knowledge network relate to the study of breakthrough technologies to allow the implementation of miniaturized radar instruments that are compatible with SmallSat Earth Observation missions. Because of their expected viability, emphasis initially is on two classes of instruments:

  • radar altimeters, and
  • synthetic aperture radars (SARs).

In both cases, the horizon are constellations of spacecraft, which are only economically feasible if the targeted miniaturization is successful. Of particular interest are multistatic mission concepts, with several spacecraft acting as a single distributed radar system.


Particular objectives include:

  • Evaluate and prioritize potential instruments and mission concepts considering the strengths of Dutch industry (downstream and upstream) and expertise and needs of Dutch commercial and scientific users.
  • Derive high-level user requirements for the selected mission concept.
  • Identify the main technological bottlenecks, and take first steps to address them, determining the most promising solutions, and proposing technological development roadmaps. As critical areas we can pre-identify:
    • deployable antennas;
    • radar-on-chip solutions;
    • system synchronization in the case of distributed systems;
    • on board processing.
  • Carry out a phase-0 feasibility study for the selected concepts, including end-to-end performance analysis of the proposed instrument and of the proposed mission (at user-product level), and use them to produce a detailed mission proposal.
  • Seek funding, both public at Dutch and European level and private, to continue and expand the activities of the network beyond the scope of this project.

The network, or consortium, investigates which design is both viable to develop and to launch with partners in The Netherlands. It aims at creating a substantial market opportunity for application developers in The Netherlands.


NL-RIA was established in the framework of the Partnerships for Space Instruments & Applications Preparatory Programme (PIPP), or knowledge network programme. It is funded by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and executed by the Netherlands Space Office (NSO).