First nano-satellite for gravimetric studies is Portuguese

2 July 2020

Spin.Works and other portuguese entities, in partnership with North American research entities, are creating a small satellite to study changes in Earth's gravitational field.

Créditos Imagem: Spin.Works

“A small satellite for man, a giant study for Humanity”. This is not the motto of the uPGRADE project, but it could very well be. Led by Spin.Works, portuguese company and AED Cluster member, this project will create a nano-satellite, weighing about 8 kilos, which will be the first in the world to study the gravitational changes and the Earth’s thermospheric density and its impact, for example, in the melting of the polar ice-caps.

Resulting from an investment of around 2.6 million euros, this project has the contribution of the University of Texas, the Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL), the University of Minho and the Institute of Welding and Quality (ISQ), also a member of the AED cluster.

The uPGRADE project had its official kick-off yesterday and has settled the launch of the nano-satellite for 2023, with two main objectives for the instrument:

  • determine how large masses of ice are melting, namely in Greenland and Antarctica;
  • recurrently monitor the circulation of liquid water at regional level and in aquifers (underground water reservoirs).

These are important study points for a better analysis of pressing environmental and socio-economic problems such as climate change or floods.

In a press release, Tiago Hormigo (Founder and Head of Space Business Development at Spin.Works) highlighted the innovative side of this project, which uses a set of “new technologies” for upcoming Earth and deep space observation missions and may be at the forefront of a future group of nano-satellites:

“This is the first prototype of what could be a constellation, with the second satellite costing no more than one fifth of the first and the remaining satellites can reach values almost in the order of one tenth of the cost. Thereby, it will be possible to build a constellation that could be in the order of 15 or 20 units at a price that may not exceed 10 million euros”

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