Louvain4Space Projects


The project of building a nanosatellite has been the main idea to join forces and knowledge in the Louvain4Space. The goal of this project is not only scientific but also pedagogic along its way. Thales Alenia Space Charleroi is our industrial partner and UCLouvain also works with engineers and scientists from the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB) and the Space aeronomy institute (BISA).

Nanosatellite name has been chosen via vote: LUNA for Louvain University NAnosat.

The first step has been to consider some Master thesis as part of our future nanosatellite project. The master (and PhD) thesis subjects list encompasses all subsystems of a nanosatellite as well as its scientific instrumentation and mission conception and analysis.

The nanosatellite subsystems and its possible payload as well as links to the subjects promoters are reported here after:


  • Propulsion

    The propulsion system is the set of components allowing the nanosatellite to be put into orbit and be maintained in orbit. It is composed of electric or chemical engines. To reach a correct orbit, deviating parameters such as atmospheric drag, magnetic fields and solar winds need to be taken into account. These engines not only allow to attain the proper trajectory, they also permit to set the correct altitude and proper speed to reach the scientific objectives.

    UCLouvain support : to be defined.

    Industrial partner : Aerospacelab.


  • Power

    Solar panels in combination with batteries are used to deliver a constant current source to the nanosatellite. The battery charger is optimized to extract the most power out of the solar panels. Space proof batteries are used when the nanosatellite is not directly exposed to the sun and allow its continuous operation.

    UCLouvain support : Marc Bekemans, Bruno Dehez.

    Industrial partners : Aerospacelab, Thales Alenia Space Charleroi.


  • Communications

    Communication subsystem uses emitters, receivers or transponders (emitter and receiver in one system). It manages global communication towards the Earth. In case of different communication subsystems on board of a same nanosatellite, their electromagnetic compatibility has to be carefully studied.

    UCLouvain support : Danielle Vanhoenacker and Christophe Craeye

    UCLouvain + ROB support : Véronique Dehant and Ozgur Karatekin

    Industrial partners : AerospacelabAntwerpSpace.


  • Superstructure

    The nanosatellite has to be able to endure the violent shocks happening during its launch. Its superstructure also has to dampen shocks and vibrations that internal components could endure during launch.

    If the nanosatellite objective is to re-renter atmosphere and descend on Earth, the superstructure has to be able to bear the shocks, vibrations and heat due to air friction.

    UCLouvain support : Bruno Dehez, Denis Flandre.

    Industrial partner : Aerospacelab.


  • Thermal

    The nanosatellite thermal system has to be able to regulate its components temperature because they undergo extreme temperature variations. Temperatures constantly oscillate between too low and too high for instruments components and other subsystems of the nanosatellite.

    UCLouvain support : Marc Bekemans.

    Industrial partner : Thales Alenia Space Charleroi.


  • Attitude

    The nanosatellite has often to be oriented according to its attributions. For instance, it has to be facing the Earth during observations. An attitude control system allows the nanosatellite to remain correctly oriented. Most of the time, it is done with little engines smaller than the propulsion system engines specially dedicated to attitude control.

    UCLouvain support : David Bol, Bruno Dehez, Laurent Jacques, Benoit Macq.

    Industrial partner : Aerospacelab.


  • Telemetry and control

    The nanosatellite has to be able to receive controls from Earth, inform Earth about undertaken operations and its state of operation while orbiting or when it is in its nominal orbit. Usually, a simple beacon system is used to allow the ground station to keep track of the orbiting nanosatellite. Additional information can also be transmitted to Earth, such as operating temperature, software and operating system state, as well as many other internal functions. Communication system also permits the transfer of instruments data to Earth.

    UCLouvain support: Danielle Vanhoenacker, Christophe Craeye and Denis Flandre.

    UCLouvain + ROB support: Véronique Dehant and Ozgur Karatekin

    Industrial partners : Aerospacelab, AntwerpSpace.


  • Payload instruments for nanosatellite

    (TRL = Technology readiness levels, illustrated explanation here)


    • Bolometer (Wide band sensor (VIS-IR far), Earth energy budget, attitude control) (TRL 6-7)

      UCLouvain + ROB support : Ozgur Karatekin and Zhu Ping

    • Radio Science

      UCLouvain + ROB support : Véronique Dehant, Christophe Craeye and Ozgur Karatekin

      Industrial partner : AntwerpSpace.

      • GPS (Occultation, Gravity, Atmospheric density, Total Electron Content (TEC), Navigation) (TRL 9)

      • VLBI Emitter (Reference frame, navigation) TRL (2)

      • Inter-satellites radio link (Occultation, Gravity, Atmospheric density, Total Electron Content (TEC), Navigation) (TRL 2)

      • Electromagnetic compatibility (TRL 2)

    • Lander for small bodies (Asteroids/Moon)

      UCLouvain + ROB support : Ozgur Karatekin and Zhu Ping

      • Gravimeter (TRL 4)

      • Environmental sensor (Insulation, Dust particles properties) (TRL 3-4)

      • Langmuir probe (Electronic density, plasma) (TRL 9)

    • Space radiations and effects (Spectrometer, Dosimeter, COTS radiation resistance)

      UCLouvain + IASB support : Denis Flandre, Mathias Cyamukungu, Sylvie Benck, David Bol and Viviane Pierrard

      TAS support : Marc Bekemans

    • Imagery, use of visible or hyper-spectral camera data (images in the complete electromagnetic spectra, materials identification, process detection) (TRL 9)
      UCLouvain support : Laurent Jacques, Benoit Macq

    • Spectral imager VISION on board of PICASSO (solar or lunar occultations in ozone teledetection) (TRL 6)
      UCLouvain + IASB support: Didier Fussen

    • Star-tracker (star sensor used for nanosatellite orientation/attitude control) (TRL 2-9)
      UCLouvain + ROB support: Véronique Dehant and Ozgur Karatekin
      Industrial partner: Aerospacelab

  • Missions design and analysis
      • Orbit and Trajectory simulation/determination (Asteroid/Moon/Mars)

      • Applications

  • Data exploitation

    Research/Teaching teams formed during the Missions Conception and Analysis study the possible synergies, mainly within the frame of data exploitation. Thus, two instruments whose complementarity allows to reach more mission objectives in terms of teaching and research shall be privileged in the payload choice. This assumes that preliminary data exploitation plans have been drawn up on the basis of simulations or ground experiments in order to demonstrate the feasibility of developments and collaborative studies involving several types of instrument or data.

    Support : All UCLouvain + All partners (to be determined).

  • Ground segment

    To be able to send and receive data to/from the nanosatellite, a ground segment has to be developed. It is a ground station sending and receiving radio signals to/from the nanosatellite. Behind these transfers, an organization with a lot of visibility needs to be established. This could be done by students.

    Support : Coordinator and all partners.