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AlSat Nano successfully captures first colour image

AlSat Nano, the joint UK-Algeria CubeSat mission, has captured and downloaded its first full colour image.

The image was taken by the Open University C3D2 instrument’s wide field camera on 3 December 2016 over the Arkhangelsk Oblast region, on the North West coast of Russia. The image was captured under twilight conditions at dawn, showing the coastline to the top of the image, and a brief winter sunrise over the arctic region with a deep red-brown hue. Through the cloud cover there is evidence of hills and snow on mountains, and mist in the river valleys. The object in the foreground is the Oxford Space Systems Ltd AstroTubeTM Boom payload, also carried on board the spacecraft.

This image capture marks an important milestone for the mission, which launched in late September.

AlSat Nano is a joint nanosatellite mission between the UK Space Agency and Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) as part of an on-going initiative to enhance collaboration. UK Space Agency has funded the design, build and verification of the spacecraft at Surrey Space Centre (SSC), University of Surrey, as a hands-on learning exercise for Algerian postgrad students to demonstrate the practical elements of low cost space technology. ASAL has provided the launch, and operations are being undertaken in Algeria by ASAL operators trained at SSC.

The mission will open up a new experience for OU distance learning students who will be able to interact with the live space instrument through the OU’s OpenSTEM labs. The payload will act as a pilot remote experiment for students on the new MSc in Space Science and Technology, which begins this month (January 2017).

AlSat Nano is Algeria’s first CubeSat mission and is globally showcasing the capability of UK technology. With dimensions of just 30x10x10cm, yet featuring all the core subsystems of much larger satellites, the programme demonstrates how CubeSats can be developed and launched much more quickly, and at a fraction of the cost, of larger satellites. This experience will help Algeria strengthen its domestic space technology capability.

Professor Andrew Holland, Chair of The Open University’s Space Science priority research area, said: “CubeSats present exciting opportunities for both in-orbit-demonstration and introducing new companies to the space market. They can be used to trial some of the latest technology in space, which other, larger, more costly, instruments may be too risk-averse to adopt. In our case, the new CMOS image sensor technology from e2v which we are using has now achieved Technology Readiness Level 9 (the highest), as a result of our C3D instruments in space, paving the way for this new technology to be used in larger missions.”

Find out more about AlSat Nano.

Find out more about the MSc in Space Science and Technology.

Find out more about the OpenSTEM Labs.

Find out more about OU Space Science research.

Professor Andrew David Holland

Professor of Electro-Optics

School of Physical Sciences

Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

Research activity.