Aerospacelab to launch Earth Observation satellite for ESA

Aerospacelab to launch Earth observation satellite for ESA

Proba-V Companion Cubesat

Aerospacelab to launch Earth observation satellite for ESA

Proba-V Companion Cubesat (PVCC), is well on track for its launch at Europe’s space port Kourou, in French Guiana. The small, low-cost satellite is the next step in Belgium’s pioneering role in actionable and affordable global environmental monitoring. Initiated by VITO and supported by the Belgian Science Policy Office, a consortium led by Aerospacelab has developed the PVCC mission for the European Space Agency.  This in-orbit demonstration mission will be Aerospacelab’s second satellite in orbit. 

The CubeSat mission is designed to acquire images from a known payload on a smaller platform. PVCC is the complementary satellite made to Proba-V, launched in 2013, which was tasked to map land cover and vegetation growth across the entire planet every two days. PVCC will be using the spare spectral imager from Proba-V as its main payload to provide data improving the calibration of Earth Observation imagery making use of a CubeSat platform. 

Benoit Deper, CEO and founder of Aerospacelab, stated: “To see this cooperation come into fruition is a great feat. This is a new era for Aerospacelab, to have a first mission flying for the European Space Agency. Our first satellite Arthur-1 is in a similar orbit and delivering great results, so this mission allows to build on that flight heritage and to push our technology even further. If the same technology is used for future missions, the overall launch costs will drastically go down, while yielding the same quality results.” 

Steven Krekels, Unit Manager VITO Remote Sensing: “Being involved in global environmental monitoring for a while, we’re happy to see the space economy taking shape. While governmental supported initiatives like SPOT-Vegetation and PROBA-V paved the way, it’s now about time low orbit economy players take over and continue to make the space technology that will help to make the sustainability balance between our economic, environmental and social responsibilities.” 

PVCC Proto-Flight Model, seen here with a cover over the baffle for its instrument, is ready for the last rounds of functional tests before its flight.

PVCC is a 12-unit Cubesat, weighing 18 kg. It will fly at an altitude of 564 km in a sun-synchronous orbit, mapping land cover and vegetation growth across the entire planet. The mission is developed and implemented by a consortium consisting of Aerospacelab (prime contractor), VITO (subcontractor, responsible for the user segment), OIP (subcontractor, responsible for providing the Proba-V spare spectral imager), and the support of Swedish Space Corporation for the ground stations in X- and S-bands in complement to the Belgian main ground station in Redu, at the European Space Security and Education Centre. 

Xavier Collaud, project manager at Aerospacelab, mentions: “Proba-V miniaturized a payload to fly it on a microsatellite, with PVCC we want to go one step further by taking the spare spectral imager of this payload and fly it on the smallest format of satellite that fits with enough capability to operate it properly. The constraints and technical challenges of this mission have led to beneficial developments in terms of maturity of equipment and processes, which are a steppingstone towards building the new generation of Aerospacelab’s space system products.” 

PVCC is the second Aerospacelab satellite to be launched and was integrated at its headquarters in Mont-Saint-Guibert. Final tests are ongoing at Aerospacelab’s first factory in Ottignies-Louvain-La-Neuve, which has been operational since the summer of 2022. In the coming weeks PVCC will be integrated into the flight deployer before travelling to Europe’s Space Port in Kourou, French Guyana, where it will be prepared for launch on Vega-C in 2023. 

Note for editors

PVCC Factsheet

  • Name: Proba-V Companion Cubesat (PVCC) 
  • In short: The mission is a 12-unit CubeSat – a small, low-cost satellite, that will fly the spare spectral imager of the Proba-V vegetation-monitoring instrument. This will allow to acquire images from a known payload on a different platform and use the resulting products to improve the calibration of Earth Observation imagery making use of CubeSat platforms. 
  • Mission objectives: PVCC is an Earth Observation in-orbit demonstration mission. The purpose is to test the performance of a CubeSat platform embarking one Proba-V spectral imager in order to provide data to support the calibration of CubeSat Earth observation missions by delivering images from a known payload on a CubeSat platform. Initiated by VITO, this mission has been realized for ESA by a consortium consisting of Aerospacelab (prime contractor), VITO (subcontractor, responsible for the user segment), OIP (subcontractor, responsible for providing the Proba-V spare spectral imager), and Swedish Space Corporation (ground station in X- and S-bands). 
  • Mission patch: PVCC’s mission patch shows a slow loris, a small nocturnal primate found in Southeast Asia. The slow loris’ habitat is diminishing due to deforestation and wildlife trade. Earth observation satellites such as PVCC are monitoring deforestation from space, empowering decision makers to take effective action in improving the natural habitat of endangered species. 
  • Satellite mass: 18kg 
  • Satellite dimensions: 0.2m x 0.2m x 0.3m (with stowed solar panels) 
  • Altitude: 564 km 
  • Ground speed: 7.0 km/s 
  • Orbit: sun-synchronous orbit with 10h30 LTDN 
  • Instruments: spectral imager with a three mirrors anastigmat telescope and two focal plane assemblies with three bands in visible and near infrared (VNIR) and one band in short-wave infrared (SWIR) 
  • Receiving stations: Kiruna (Sweden), Inuvik (Canada), Redu (Belgium) 
  • Lifetime: 1 year 
  • Prospected launch window: end of Q1 2023 
  • Launch location: Kourou, French Guyana 
  • Launch vehicle: Vega-C 
  • Launcher mission: VV-23 

About Aerospacelab

Established in Belgium, Switzerland and France, Aerospacelab is a fast-growing company created in 2018, counting more than 150 full time employees. With a unique vertically integrated approach, Aerospacelab is specialized in satellite platforms and units, and geospatial intelligence. We design, manufacture and operate constellations of remote sensing satellites, to empower decision makers through intelligence and insights. Thanks to our Versatile Satellite Platform and proprietary satellite data, we make access to space and geospatial intelligence affordable and actionable.

For more information and interview requests, please contact
Erika Verbelen, Marketing and Communications Manager
+32 470 32 61 55

About VITO 

As a part of VITO, an independent leading international research and service centre, VITO Remote Sensing offers Earth observation expertise, data and services, and end-to-end image processing solutions. Our goal is to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world. We provide insights for public and private organizations, and for a wide range of applications including  agriculture, vegetation, land use/cover, water and coast, climate, security and infrastructure. 

With more than 25 years of experience in transforming satellite, aerial and drone imagery into objective and consumable information, we’ve seen remote sensing grown into a powerful tool to preserve our environment, society and economy. With a diverse team of more than 100 experts we provide solutions that allow us all to ‘see the bigger picture’ and reach a sustainable balance on our planet. 

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