Aerospacelab to Launch Earth Observation Satellite for ESA

Proba-V Companion Cubesat (PVCC), is well on track for its launch at Europe’s space port Kourou, in French Guiana. The small, low-cost satellite is the next step in Belgium’s pioneering role in actionable and affordable global environmental monitoring. Initiated by VITO and supported by the Belgian Science Policy Office, a consortium led by Aerospacelab has developed the PVCC mission for the European Space Agency.  This in-orbit demonstration mission will be Aerospacelab’s second satellite in orbit. 

The CubeSat mission is designed to acquire images from a known payload on a smaller platform. PVCC is the complementary satellite made to Proba-V, launched in 2013, which was tasked to map land cover and vegetation growth across the entire planet every two days. PVCC will be using the spare spectral imager from Proba-V as its main payload to provide data improving the calibration of Earth Observation imagery making use of a CubeSat platform. 

Benoit Deper, CEO and founder of Aerospacelab, stated:

“To see this cooperation come into fruition is a great feat. This is a new era for Aerospacelab, to have a first mission flying for the European Space Agency. Our first satellite Arthur-1 is in a similar orbit and delivering great results, so this mission allows to build on that flight heritage and to push our technology even further. If the same technology is used for future missions, the overall launch costs will drastically go down, while yielding the same quality results.” 

Steven Krekels, Unit Manager VITO Remote Sensing:

“Being involved in global environmental monitoring for a while, we’re happy to see the space economy taking shape. While governmental supported initiatives like SPOT-Vegetation and PROBA-V paved the way, it’s now about time low orbit economy players take over and continue to make the space technology that will help to make the sustainability balance between our economic, environmental and social responsibilities.”

PVCC is a 12-unit Cubesat, weighing 18 kg. It will fly at an altitude of 564 km in a sun-synchronous orbit, mapping land cover and vegetation growth across the entire planet. The mission is developed and implemented by a consortium consisting of Aerospacelab (prime contractor), VITO (subcontractor, responsible for the user segment), OIP (subcontractor, responsible for providing the Proba-V spare spectral imager), and the support of Swedish Space Corporation for the ground stations in X- and S-bands in complement to the Belgian main ground station in Redu, at the European Space Security and Education Centre. 

Xavier Collaud, project manager at Aerospacelab, mentions:

“Proba-V miniaturized a payload to fly it on a microsatellite, with PVCC we want to go one step further by taking the spare spectral imager of this payload and fly it on the smallest format of satellite that fits with enough capability to operate it properly. The constraints and technical challenges of this mission have led to beneficial developments in terms of maturity of equipment and processes, which are a steppingstone towards building the new generation of Aerospacelab’s space system products.” 

PVCC is the second Aerospacelab satellite to be launched and was integrated at its headquarters in Mont-Saint-Guibert. Final tests are ongoing at Aerospacelab’s first factory in Ottignies-Louvain-La-Neuve, which has been operational since the summer of 2022. In the coming weeks PVCC will be integrated into the flight deployer before travelling to Europe’s Space Port in Kourou, French Guyana, where it will be prepared for launch on Vega-C in 2023.