The future of micro- and nanosatellites for astronomy


Contact : Bertrand Goldman

Rationale :

Our workshop intends to bring together the researchers working or interested on the development of and the science allowed by very small satellites, CNES, and the industry, to discuss the current prospects, the lessons learned, and community coordination.

Thanks to the miniaturisation of electronics and the performance of off-the-shelf components, as well as new launch options, micro- (20 to 200 kg) and nanosatellites (1 to 20 kg) now provide interesting capabilities for time and cost effective access to space. This revolution also concerns astronomy with several missions already launched and a yet larger number of missions being planned. This workshop intends to discuss the potential, the limitations, the challenges of astronomy space missions on satellites of masses up to 50 kg, and how the French astronomical and space communities should approach this new instrumentation domain.

In the past decade, examples of US astrophysics nanosatellite flight missions that have been already launched include the Cosmic X-Ray Background Nanosatellite (CXBN), the Bright Target Explorer (BRITE), and the Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics (ASTERIA). The latter obtained the first CubeSat measurement of an exoplanet transit, 55 Cnc e, with an accuracy of ∼400 parts per million. In France, the first nanosatellite for astronomy was launched in 2018: PicSat, to measure the exoplanet transit of beta Pic b, while there are numerous missions under study, such as NOIRE (radio interferometry swarm behind the Moon); CosmoCal (calibration of CMB observations); CASSTOR (UV spectropolarimetry of hot stars), RENSEM (multi-points around Mars), SPEED (plasma in situ measurement on nano-satellite), BIRDY (internal structure of small bodies in the solar system), TeraCube (planetary atmospheres at THz radio frequencies), Vamos (seismology of Venus), Meteorix (characterisation of meteors), 3UTransat (nano-satellites to survey the transient sky),…

During this workshop, we would like to focus on the scientific benefits of nanosatellites but can also address their educational benefits. We aim to bring together astronomers, industry partners and institutional partners, to assess the current situation of the field, and discuss the prospects for future astronomical missions, as well as the ways to coordinate this effort at the regional and national levels.

The workshop will be divided into three parts: First,we will have reviews of the CNES, ESA, and industrial perspectives. Then we will welcome a few short presentations of past, on-going, and planned French projects, illustrating the potential of nanosatellites for science (astronomy, deep space, swarms and constellations). Finally, a panel of astronomers, CNES and industry representatives will lead a discussion with the audience about the challenges and opportunities of nanosatellites.


Frédéric Esteve
Bertrand Goldman (Chair)
François Leblanc
Louise Lopes
Coralie Neiner


The workshop will include:

  • three reviews by CNES, ESA, and an industry player;
  • about five slots for contributed talks about past, current, and planned missions, to present technological and scientific findings and proposals, as well as lessons learned ;
  • a panel discussion with the audience.

Schedule: (to be updated end of April)

  • 14:05 welcome and introduction
  • 14:05 15-min reviews + questions
    • CNES: Frédéric Estève
    • ESA
    • an industry player TBI
  • 15:00: 15-min presentations including Q&A
  • 16:15: coffee break
  • 16:30: open discussion, with the panel composed by the SOC and reviewers
  • 17:30: conclusion

Call for contributions:

Small sat users, developpers, and proponents, are invited to participate and propose contributions to this workshop by April 7, 2023 on the SF2A website: https://journees.sf2a.eu/inscription

The SOC will establish the final programme from these proposals. Each e-poster will be briefly presented orally.