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The European Space Agency

PICASSO is a highly ambitious 3U CubeSat science mission, initiated by the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BISA), with the aim of studying the unexplored layers of the earth’s atmosphere. The mission also serves as an ESA in-orbit-demonstrator of CubeSat technology and a pioneer for small satellite missions.

Mission Objectives

PICASSO will demonstrate the capability of low-cost nanosatellites to perform remote and in-situ scientific measurements of physiochemical properties of the Earth’s atmosphere as well as enhancing the technology readiness level of the instruments on-board. The mission aims to study the ozone distribution in the stratosphere, characterise the air temperature profile up to the mesosphere, and measure the electron density and temperature in the ionosphere.


In support of its objectives, PICASSO will fly a payload comprising two main instruments. The first is a sweeping Langmuir probe and the second a near-infrared hyper-spectral imager (VISION), developed by VTT, Finland.

The VISION hyper-spectral imager creates several challenges for the platform. Notably, the requirement to point at the Sun upon entering and exiting periods of eclipse to image the atmosphere at various altitudes. Clyde Space has developed a high-performance ADCS subsystem that makes use of state of the art sensors and actuators to deliver a pointing accuracy of 1° relative to the Sun.

The large power requirements of the mission, to generate 10 W of orbit averaged power, will be met by four 2U deployable solar panels , deployed on the short edge of the spacecraft and a standard Clyde Space 30 Wh battery.

The payload generates close to 100 MBps of data during operation which must be captured and processed on-board before being downlinked to the ground. Transmitting the raw data in its entirety to the ground is infeasible and the platform, therefore incorporates a high-performance secondary computer which is dedicated to processing the payload data prior to transmission. The complexities of the mission also necessitated greater customization of the CubeSat structure which led to the design of a new structure which has now been adapted for the wider commercial market to support other missions facing similar challenges.


Interested in a 3U platform for your mission? See details of the Clyde Space Standard 3U platform

Alternatively, you can read more about the subsystems we use within the Picasso platform;

  • 3G 3U FlexU EPS
  • 30 Wh standalone battery
  • 3U Structure
  • ADCS
  • Stx comms