Micro- and nanosatellites have become a present reality of space research, being attractive due to their low launch cost, and thus opening for ground-breaking missions with satellite constellations. A class of nanosatellites is defined by the CubeSat standard, primarily setting the interface to the launcher, which allows standardizing CubeSat preparation and launch, thus making the projects more affordable. The satellites have a standard dimension of 10x10x10 cm as 1U standard, or a multiple of those – e.g. 30x10x10 cm for a 3U CubeSat. A considerable number of CubeSats have been launched, the majority of them being demonstration or educational missions. For scientific and other advanced missions to fully realize the potential offered by the low cost nanosatellites, there are challenges related to limitations of the existing cubesat platforms and to the availability of small yet sufficiently sensitive sensors.
The SEAM project will develop and demonstrate in flight for the first time a concept of an electromagnetically clean nanosatellite with precision attitude determination, flexible autonomous data acquisition system, high-bandwidth telemetry and an integrated solution for ground control and data handling. As the first demonstration, the satellite will carry novel magnetic sensors, mounted on booms to provide science-grade measurements.
The results of SEAM will be a unique high-end commercial product range, constituted either by the platform and related services as a whole, or selected subsets of it. It is the thoroughly thought-through combination and further development of the technologies established by close collaboration procedures that will make it possible to provide a comprehensive platform for unprecedented missions and to propose it to the European and worldwide markets. For the first time the development of all subsystems is driven by a carefully formulated requirement set derived from the scientific objectives. The market for nanosatellites and activity in this field are growing rapidly. Driving the development in the high-end of the market will allow the SMEs’ consortium to offer the scientific agencies a low cost alternative (compared to traditional satellites) to a wide range of scientific missions. This will contribute to creating a vital and sustainable market for nanosatellites beyond educational missions, and will ensure continued European lead in the field, initiated in several on-going EU funded projects.