A Distributed Space-Weather Sensor System using Small Satellites

Steve Eckersley*, Samantha Rowe, Nikki Antoniou, Colin Forsyth, Robert Wicks, Jonathan Eastwood, Patrick Brown, Vladimír Dániel, Jan Gromeš, Milan Junas, Keith Ryden, Melanie Heil, Sergio Terzo, Alberto Ruiz Gonzalo, Piers Jiggens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Space weather is becoming increasingly important for space and terrestrial activities and is likely to transition to an operational service. Small satellites are ideally suited for space-weather measurements given the need for making simultaneous measurements across both small and large volumes of space. The “Nanosatellites for D3S” Phase 0/A study for ESA was initiated in early 2021 with the objective to assess the feasibility of using nanosatellites for future operational space weather monitoring missions in near-Earth space as part of ESA's Distributed Space Weather Sensor System (D3S) - which itself forms part of the wider ESA Enhanced Space Weather Monitoring System. The study team consortium is highly experienced including sub-contractors supporting SSTL from MSSL, Imperial College London, and VZLU. Surrey Space Centre and Northumbria University are also providing expert consultancy. In the first part of the Phase 0 study, a survey of the measurement requirements and potential space weather instruments was carried out, alongside an investigation into recent relevant nanosatellite missions and future nanosatellite technologies. This was followed by an analysis and trade-off of high level mission architecture concepts eventually converging down to two of the most promising mission architecture concepts, which were further analysed in the latter half of the Phase 0 study. The objective of the first Phase 0 mission architecture concept was to provide near-real time measurements of radiation, thermal plasma and Ionospheric neutrals/plasma, via a constellation of 20x SSTL-21 satellites, in a single LEO orbital plane. The objective of the second Phase 0 mission architecture concept was to provide near-real time measurements of radiation, the Ionosphere and the Thermosphere, via a constellation of 6x 16U SSTL-Cube satellites, in a single LEO orbital plane. The orbit selected for both missions was a 500-600km Sun-Synchronous LEO Orbit with an LTAN of 10:30am. Both missions assumed an operational in-orbit spare satellite. The estimated launch date assumed for the missions was 2025. The Phase 0 study was completed in March earlier this year, with ESA selecting the second mission architecture concept to take through into the Phase A study, which kicked off straight after completion of the Phase 0 study. This paper mainly describes the details of the Phase 0 study, as well as touching on the current status of the Phase A study.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberx69282
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2022
Event73rd International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2022 - Paris, France
Duration: 18 Sept 202222 Sept 2022

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