You are on page 1of 4


H. Carreno-Luengo, A. Camps, J. Querol, G. Forte, R. Onrubia, and R. Dez
Universitat Politcnica de Catalunya BarcelonaTech Remote Sensing Laboratory UPC Campus Nord,
D3; 08034 Barcelona, Spain, Tel. +34 93 401736,
Universitat Politcnica de Catalunya (UPC)
BarcelonaTech Remote Sensing Laboratory focus on the
development of breakthrough concepts. The 3Cat-2 mission
is on the synergy of GNSS reflectometry and the CubeSat
concept. Scientifically valuable mission data will improve
our understanding on the Earths environment. In particular,
ocean currents need further investigation because of the
spatio-temporal evolution of the mesoscale phenomena. The
spacecraft development work includes two stratospheric
flights in the frame of the REXUS/BEXUS programme
coordinated by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Coherent and incoherent scattering of Earth-reflected GNSS
signals as sensed by the P(Y) & C/A ReflectOmeter
(PYCARO) payload will be evaluated using the main stateof-the art Global Navigation Satellite Systems
Reflectometry (GNSS-R) methodologies. Future spaceborne activities could take advantage of it, including the
GNSS REflectometry, Radio Occultation and Scatterometry
on-board International Space Station (GEROS-ISS)
Index Terms CubeSat, ocean altimetry, biomass, soil
moisture, GNSS-R, GNSS-RO
The CubeSat concept is actually being used as a platform
for the development of new Earth observation remote
sensing techniques. On the other side, in 1988 the concept
of multistatic scatterometry was first proposed by Hall and
Cordey [1]. In 1991 it became evident that navigation
signals reflected over the sea surface could be collected by
an air-borne GPS receiver [2]. In 1993, the concept of
GNSS-based altimetry was first proposed by Martn-Neira
[3]. At present, at least five space-borne missions are
approved or under-study: the Cyclone Global Navigation
Satellite System (CYGNSS) from NASA, the GNSS
REflectometry, Radio Occultation and Scatterometry onboard International Space Station (GEROS-ISS), and the
Passive Reflectometry and Interferometry System In-Orbit

978-1-4799-5775-0/14/$31.00 2014 IEEE

Demonstrator (PARIS-IoD) from ESA, UK TechDemoSat

from SSTL, and 3Cat-2 from UPC [4]. Universitat
Politcnica de Catalunya initiated activities in this field in
2007 with the 3Cat-1: a 1U CubeSat that includes 5 small
experiments. At present UPC is working in new satellites of
this family. In particular, the main scientific objective of the
6U CubeSat 3Cat-2 (30x20x10 cm, 5 kg), is to perform
ocean altimetry using Global Navigation Satellite Systems
Reflectometry (GNSS-R). Secondary objectives are:
atmospheric sensing using GNSS radio-occultations,
scatterometry, soil moisture measurements, biomass
monitoring and cryosphere studies. This work presents the
development of the 3Cat-2 mission. Section 2 describes the
Concept of Operations (ConOps), Section 3 presents the
platform, and Section 4 describes the results of an
experiment from the BEXUS 17 stratospheric balloon
carried out in North Sweden on October 10th 2013 as a
proof-of-concept of the payload. Finally Section 5
summarizes the main results of this work.
The primary 3Cat-2 mission Concept of Operations
(ConOps) is summarized in Figure 1. The mode manager of
the main mission script control the switching of states
between the different modes. There are five modes defined
for the flight software that the satellite can transition into:
Start-Up, Detumbling, Nominal, Sun-Safe and Survival.
The state diagram (Fig. 1) illustrates the different software
modes and the conditions to be met that cause transitions
between the modes.
In nominal mode the 3Cat-2 spacecraft will perform a
slow pitch up/down maneuver once per week to allow the
PYCARO payload to point alternatively to nadir (GNSS-R
mode) and to the Earths limb (GNSS-RO mode). During
the nadir-pointing measurements an on-board scheduler will
predict the type of scattering surface (ocean, land or
cryosphere), and the Earth-reflected signal visibility
(number of visible GNSS satellites and average reflection
event duration). The Command & Data Handling subsystem
(C&DH) will select the operational mode based on the



Fig. 2. 3Cat-2 Engineering Model (EM) overview. Three 1U PCB stacks are
dedicated for the attachment of the PYCARO payload. The antenna array is
placed on the top of the 6U structure.

Fig. 1. State diagram for the mode manager of the 3Cat-2 main script.

position and time provided by the on-board GPS receiver.

Cat-2 scientific operations are: a) open-loop
conventional and interferometric ocean altimetry using
reflected signals in Left Hand Circular Polarization (LHCP),
b) open-loop conventional and interferometric ocean
altimetry using reflected signals in Right Hand Circular
Polarization (RHCP), c) open-loop conventional, closedloop conventional and semicodeless scatterometry
simultaneously in LHCP and RHCP over ocean, land and
interferometric soil moisture, biomass monitoring and
studies of the cryosphere. GNSS-R reflected waveforms
(RHCP and LHCP) take both polarizations (RHCP and
LHCP) in the direct signal as reference. This is possible by
switching quickly enough the down-looking and the uplooking antennas between LHCP and RHCP polarization,
and e) during the Earths limb pointing mode the C&DH
will perform closed-loop GNSS radio-occultations in
RHCP and LHCP. This is possible by switching quickly
enough the limb-looking antenna between LHCP and RHCP
Mesoscale ocean altimetry is still an area of research in
Earth observation satellites. At present several concepts are
being investigated. The 3Cat-2 spatial resolution
requirement is 100 km x 10 km (along x across track) in
mode open-loop, and 7 km x 300 m (along x across track)
in mode closed-loop, with a revisit time within 12 days,
and an accuracy of at least 1 m at nadir. The radiooccultation technique was first conceived four decades ago
as a part of NASAs planetary exploration missions. The
application of this technique to Earth observation using the
GPS constellation (GNSS-RO) was first proposed by Yunck
et al. [5] in 1988 and demonstrated for first time with the
GPS/MET experiment in 1995.
The 3Cat-2 mission is constrained to a CubeSat platform.
Several studies were performed using 1U and 2U CubeSat
platforms with and without deployable structures for the

accommodation of the GNSS-R nadir-looking antenna

array. Finally a 6U structure (Fig. 2) was selected to
minimize the development time and the cost. The 6U shape
(340.5 x 226.3 x 100 mm) is optimum for the dual band (L1
and L2) 6-patches antenna array (Fig. 2). A single-patch
antenna is placed in the opposite side for collection of the
direct GNSS signals. The satellite is configured without
moving mechanism or propulsion subsystem. The only
deployable structures are two communications antennamonopoles (UHF, VHF). The configuration ensures that the
Field Of View (FOV) of the antennas is free of structures
that could cause multipath. The thermal control design
provides thermal stability and minimizes thermal gradients
through an integrated design of Multi-Layer Insulation
(MLI) and surface treatments.
The scientific data downlink is done in S-band (2400
MHz). The transceiver provides Binary Phase Shift Keying
(BPSK) modulation with a data rate up to 115 kbps.
Housekeeping data downlink is done in VHF (145.995
MHz) with BPSK modulation at a data rate up to 9.6 kbps,
being the uplink of the telecommands done in UHF
(437.940 MHz) with Multiple Frequency Shift Keying
(MFSK) modulation at a data rate up to 1.2 kbps. The UHF
receiver is always on and always decoding AX.25 frames.
The ground segment considers the use of a 3 m S-band dish
and a UHF/VHF transceiver in the Universitat Politcnica
de Catalunya premises. Telemetry provides collection and
high level formatting of housekeeping and scientific data.
These data are stored for later downlink respectively in
VHF and S-band. The storage software controls data
acquisition, recording, and playback of housekeeping and
scientific data using respectively 2 GB, and 8 GB on-board
memories for data storage. The data storage allows for more
than 5 days of continuous scientific operations without
downlink, providing significant margin for contingency
operations. The Flight Model (FM) includes a second
UHF/VHF transceiver as a back-up system in case of
failure. Additionally a beacon mode will be used finding
and tracking the satellite (eg. when the satellite has been
ejected from the launch vehicle or when the satellite is in


Fig. 3. Attitude determination block diagram.

Sun-Safe state). It will be active during all the satellite

operations without requiring any action of other subsystems.
The Attitude Determination and Control Subsystem
(ADCS) uses a 3-axis magnetorquer system providing 0.2
Am2 of nominal magnetic dipole per actuator. The
combination of two torque rods (0.2 W of actuation power)
with a flat air core torquer (0.57 W) reduces the required
volume and provide equal magnetic moments in all the three
dimensions. The attitude determination (Fig. 3) is performed
using two 3-axis magnetoresistive sensors, three rate
gyroscopes and six sun-sensors (one per CubeSat side). The
magnetoresistive sensor is designed to measure both
direction and magnitude of Earths magnetic field from 10
micro-gauss to 4 gauss. The ADCS has three primary states
of operation: detumbling, nadir-pointing, and limb-pointing.
The detumbling state is used after separation from the
CubeSat deployer and for anomaly recovery if rates
overpass nominal state capabilities (Sun-Safe state). Rate
damping uses a "B-dot" algorithm to drive magnetic dipole
moments opposed to the rate of change of the magnetic
vector (both measured in body coordinates). It only uses the
sensed magnetic field to determine a rough attitude. The
satellite changes to nadir acquisition once the body rates are
damped. During scientific observations, the satellite motion
can be regarded as in the vicinity of the reference. Thus an
application of a linear model of the satellite equations of
motion is selected. The nominal state uses measurements
from the two 3-axis magnetometers and the rate gyroscopes.
It determines pitch, roll, and yaw using a Multiplicative
Extended Kalman Filter (MEKF). Different types of sensors
produce solutions at different rates. This causes a problem
for a Kalman filter that has to have all the measurements
available to update the state vector. A solution to this is to
use superposition for the updates. To reduce the
computational burden instead of calculating a gain matrix
that requires an inverse of a 3n x 3n matrix, only a 3 x 3
matrix inverse is required n times with Murrells version.
These measurements are used to control the 3-axis
magnetorquer system. The necessary condition for power
optimality of a control law is that the magnetic moment lies
on a 2-dimensional manifold perpendicular to the
geomagnetic field vector. Computation of the infinite and

Fig. 4. Sequence diagram for on-board command processing.

finite horizon attitude controllers are not optimum for their

implementation in a small embedded computer. A simple
constant gain attitude controller is selected. The design
algorithm replaces the time-varying parameters of the
satellite by its averaged values evaluated over a period of
one orbit. A Linear Quadratic Regulator (LQR) is used for
the constant gain controller design. The system is linear,
time-invariant and controllable thus a control law can be
based on the solution of the steady-state Riccati equation.
The pointing knowledge is less than 1, and the pointing
accuracy is between 1 to 2. Orbit position and time is
provided via GPS determination from the PYCARO
instrument. After one week of GNSS-R operations, the
spacecraft moves to GNSS-RO operations. The satellite
points to Earths limb using a similar strategy that in the
reflectometry operations.
The Command and Data Handling subsystem (C&DH)
computer is based on an 40 MHz clock speed ARM7
embedded processor with a memory of 2 MB static RAM, 4
MB flash memory (data storage), 4 MB flash memory (code
storage), and a 2 GB microSD card. The system operates the
FreeRTOS real-time operating system. Modularity and
reusability are valuable software architectural goals
achieved using a star architecture. A large portion of the
design of the flight software involves defining the ground
station to satellite command processing architecture. There
are several activities playing a role in executing commands
that will be uplinked from the ground station. Figure 4
illustrates a sequence diagram showing the interaction of
these activities involved in the satellites execution of
The Electrical Power Subsystem (EPS) is designed to
perform the Li-Ion battery (29 Wh) charging without
interrupting scientific data acquisition. The outside vehicle
surface is covered by solar panels except in the vehicle-side
where the antenna array is located. In particular 2x 300 x


Fig. 5. BEXUS launch at Esrange Space Center.

Fig. 7. Coherent reflected power as a function of the flight height and the
scattering media.
Fig. 6. Image of the Earth at a maximum apogee of 27 km.

100 mm2 (lateral panels), 2x 200 x 100 mm2, (lateral

panels) 1x 300 x 200 mm2 (top panel) are considered. The
top panel provides space to locate a single patch GPS
antenna (52 x 54 mm2). The GaAs-cell efficiency is 28%,
and the average efficiency of the input converter is 93%.
There are two regulated power buses of 3.3 V, and 5V.
There are three individual photovoltaic input channels each
having its own Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT).
This enables the voltage to be set independently on all
panels thus capturing the exact maximum power point at all
illuminated cells.

feasible. 3Cat-2 EM assembly and integration process was

finished at the end of April 2014. In parallel activities for
the next campaign of BEXUS 18/19 will be carried out.
This new stratospheric balloon experiment will serve to
properly tune the payload of this CubeSat mission. 3Cat-2
FM manufacturing is in process, and integration is
scheduled by the second half of 2014. The 3Cat-2 launch is
scheduled by the second half of 2015. The nominal orbit is
Sun Synchronous, mean Local Time of Ascending Node
(LTAN) = 06:00 h and flight height around 600 km. The
mission operation center will be the NanoSat Lab [6] in the
UPC Campus Nord.


The first analysis of the 3Cat-2 mission required the
evaluation of the Earth-reflected signal power as a function
of the platform height to verify the theoretical models used
in the design of the payload. The Balloon EXperiments for
University Students (BEXUS) project (Fig. 5) appears in
this framework as a useful platform to satisfy this scientific
requirement. This programme is carried out under a bilateral
agency agreement between the German Aerospace Center
(DLR) and the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB). The

amount of the coherent reflected power Prl

arriving LEO

is a parameter of interest for the development and the design

of future GNSS-R space-borne missions. The evolution of
this parameter is represented as a function of the flight
height (Fig. 6) in the range from 0 to 20 km in Fig. 7, where
is observed that the power can be modeled nearly
independently of the distance from the specular reflection
point to the platform.
The results from BEXUS 17 show that the mission is

Work sponsored by project ref. AYA2011-29183-C02-01 "AROSAAdvanced Radio Ocultations and Scatterometry Applications using GNSS
and other opportunity signals", of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and
Competitiveness. The launch of the 3Cat-2 nanosatellite will be sponsored
by the E-GEM FP7 project.

[1] C. D. Hall, and R. A. Cordey, "Multistatic scatterometry, Proceedings
of the 1988 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Symposium, pp. 561,562, Edinburgh, UK, September 1988.
[2] J. C. Auber, A. Bibaut, and J. M. Rigal, Characterization of multipath
on land and sea at GPS frequencies, Proceedings of the 7th International
Technical Meeting of the Satellite Division of the Institute of Navigation,
pp. 1155-1171, 1994.
[3] M. Martn-Neira, A PAssive Reflectometry and Interferometry System
(PARIS): application to ocean altimetry, ESA J., vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 331355, 1993.
[4] H. Carreno-Luengo, A. Camps, I. Ramos-Prez, G. Forte, R. Onrubia,
and R. Dez, 3Cat-2: A P(Y) and C/A experimental nanosatellite mission,
Proceedings of the 2013 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote
Sensing Symposium, pp. 843-846, Melbourne, Australia, July 2013.
[5] T. P. Yunck, G. F. Lindal, and C. H. Liu, The role of the GPS in
precise Earth observation, IEEE Position, Location and Navigation
Symposium, Orlando, November 1988.
[6] NanosatLab, Universitat Politcnica Catalunya. [Online]. Available (last visited: 10/5/2014).