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Satnews Daily
June 27th, 2017

Hyperspectral Camera from VTT Heads into Space

VTT's small and lightweight hyperspectral camera was successfully launched to space in Aalto-1 nanosatellite on June 23, 2017.

This tunable spectral imager operates in the visible and near-infrared spectra can measure wavelength range of 500 to 900 nanometers. The camera is half a cubesat unit (0.5U) in size, or 5 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm. This technology's key advantage is that the measurement wavelengths are software programmable — same camera hardware can be easily scaled to different applications, also after the launch.

In recent years, the number of launches of smallsats, often referred to as nanosatellites or cubesats based on their cube-shaped form, have grown significantly, enabling much faster technical advances in comparison to traditional space industry. A single rocket launch can carry dozens of smallsats to space, making individual satellite launch cost significantly lower. Because of this cost efficiency, smallsats can form large constellations and the small sensing instruments they carry can be replaced more often with latest technical solutions.

Constellations can measure local data with much more rapid cycles than the traditional instruments, making it possible to create data-based services for industries not traditionally involved in space, such as agriculture and insurance.

According to Research Scientist Antti Näsilä, so far, hyperspectral imaging has only been possible with instruments in traditional, large satellites. However, VTT's technology now makes it possible to do hyperspectral imaging also from small satellites. Antti has been involved in creating the first light-weight hyperspectral imager, AaSI, for Aalto-1, as well as hyperspectral imagers for the PICASSO and the upcoming Reaktor Hello World nanosatellite missions.

Anna Rissanen, who is leading the research team, explained that VTT's technology also enables smallsats to measure spectral data, making it possible to detect properties not visible to the naked eye, such as water quality, pollution or vegetation health. Plus, VTT's hyperspectral technology can also be customized for other wavelength ranges and specific needs. This technology enables the company to work with start-ups, aerospace industry and other research institutes in order to enable new application and service development based on smallsats.