Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020
Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020

Poster presentations and abstracts


This session will highlight planetary science and space mission concepts based on small satellites in the class of NanoSat, MiniSat and planetary SmallSats. Recent advances in small platforms make it possible for small satellites, including CubeSats, to be considered as independent or complementary elements in planetary exploration missions, for example the small probes as part of the Hayabusa 2 mission and Hera mission. Presentations on Deep Space Planetary CubeSats, e.g. the small satellites accompanying the new F-class ESA mission Comet Interceptor and those selected or proposed for the NASA SIMPLEX program are welcomed. Concepts for future mission may either be an augmentation to larger missions or as stand-alone missions of their own. We encourage presentations on new Planetary science mission architectures and associated technologies, as well as dedicated instrumentation that can be developed for these applications.

Convener: John Robert Brucato | Co-conveners: Marilena Amoroso, Patricia Beauchamp, Vincenzo Della Corte, Simone Pirrotta

Session assets

Session summary

Chairperson: John Robert Brucato
Gali Garipov, Mikhail Panasyuk, Sergey Svertilov, Ivan Konyukhov, Sergey Pogosyan, Andrey Rubin, and Dmitriy Andreev

The aim of the researches is detecting and exploration of microorganisms of Terrestrial and Cosmic origin.

Microorganisms are supposed to be studied in the near-earth space on space objects of manmade origin and on the space bodies of Solar system in the extraterrestrial space, including   planets.

For research, it is proposed to use the properties of microorganisms to emit a fluorescent glow when they irradiated with flashes of light causing their fluorescence.

One of the research tasks is to search for terrestrial microorganisms that have occurred in space from Earth, as well as research of the survival of the terrestrial microorganisms in space conditions which shall be placed in special laboratories on board of the microsatellites on the Earth.

The second task is to search for microorganisms on space bodies in interplanetary space by remote sensing of the surface of space bodies by flashes of light.

To solve the first problem of this work is considered an example of a micro-laboratory for the study of terrestrial microorganisms located in space conditions in near-earth space on microsatellites.

 To solve the second problem, is considered an example of remote sensing equipment of space objects for searching for microorganisms on space bodies in interplanetary space which is installed on board of microsatellite created for far space exploration.

Concerning to the first task it is shown that in automatic laboratories on microsatellites, it is possible to study the dynamics of microorganisms survival in space in conditions with a fixed habitat similar to earth's and in a changing environment that adequate the entry of microorganisms into open space and return them back to the earth conditions.

Concerning to the second task it is shown that colonies of microorganisms on the surface of space bodies can be detected and studied from the orbits of their artificial satellites or from flight path trajectories near the space body at distances in order 200 km, and single microorganisms can be detected and studied at distances in order hundreds of meters

How to cite: Garipov, G., Panasyuk, M., Svertilov, S., Konyukhov, I., Pogosyan, S., Rubin, A., and Andreev, D.: The study of Terrestrial microorganisms in space conditions and search for extraterrestrial microorganisms on space bodies, Europlanet Science Congress 2020, online, 21 Sep–9 Oct 2020, EPSC2020-106,, 2020.

Igor Gai, Marco Lombardo, and Marco Zannoni and the LICIACube Team


Historically, deep-space missions have been characterized by large and massive probes. The high cost needed to reach escape trajectories, hazardous environment of deep-space, and usually long cruise phase to the final target, drove this kind of missions to rely upon a unique, large long-life probe.

On the other side, CubeSats were born to be a cheap alternative for relatively short low Earth-orbiting missions. As CubeSats has been extensively tested on-field, they proved to be capable to achieve many of the tasks of a classical space mission, even though with lower performances depending on off-the-shelf payloads. The idea of coupling one or more CubeSats to support a classical deep space probe could be useful to reduce the mission costs while increasing the scientific objectives. For instance, CubeSats could be used to split mission tasks, to perform gravity investigations using formation flight (Hera-Juventas [1]), or dedicated optical observation (LICIACube [2], Argomoon [3]). The costs could be additionally reduced by releasing the CubeSats only when necessary, i.e. once reached the investigation situ. However, CubeSats’ payload and onboard computation limits, miniaturized thrusters and smaller non-directional antennas set a tricky challenge to the Orbit Determination (OD) and Navigation (NAV) tasks.

Recently, the Mars Cube One (MarCO) mission has demonstrated the capabilities of the CubeSats in deep-space environment [4]. It consisted of two 6U CubeSats whose primary objective was to act as communication relay between the Earth and the InSight Mars lander during its Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) phase. During the mission, some critical points were highlighted, such as the thruster’s reliability. In the following, we will present the challenges in the navigation of the deep-space CubeSat LICIACube.


The Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroid (LICIACube) is a 6U CubeSat of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) that will operate in conjunction with the NASA “Double Asteroid Redirection Test” (DART) aimed at the Didymos binary asteroid system [5]. The main goal of LICIACube is to support the asteroid deflection assessment by imaging the effects – in particular the ejecta plume - of the DART impact on the moon of Didymos, dubbed Dimorphos, as well as the non-impacted hemisphere of the Dimorphos itself. LICIACube design, manufacturing and testing will be implemented by the Italian company Argotec, that will also operate the spacecraft from the Argotec’s Mission Control Centre (MCC). The LICIACube scientific team is contributing to identify the driving constraints to Mission Design (MD) and OD. Moreover, the coordination with Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU-APL) is focused on optimization of the trajectory and of the mission resources, such as the Deep Space Network (DSN) coverage, as well as pointing requirements to avoid mutual interference. 

The LICIACube probe will be released by DART piggyback dispenser 10 days before the scheduled impact (end of 2022) and will independently approach the Didymos system. Approximately 3 minutes after DART impact on Dimorphos, LICIACube will perform its flyby of the binary asteroid, leaving the system in a heliocentric trajectory for the following 2-6 months, necessary to download the acquired data. The OD of LICIACube is based only on radiometric observables, Doppler and ranging, since the optical observables download time exceeds the useful OD time before the secondary flyby. Based on the baseline trajectory provided by MD, the OD-NAV will be responsible for real-time trajectory reconstruction and probe guidance to achieve the desired flyby conditions, set to maximize the scientific return. Based on the platform limits and the available ground resources, numerical simulations demonstrated that two 1.5h tracking passes per day allow to satisfy the requirements in terms of OD accuracy.

Orbit Determination Challenges

The OD process used to estimate the trajectory of a deep-space spacecraft is mainly based on radiometric and astrometric observables. The radiometric observables, mainly ranging and Doppler, are acquired by a ground stations network (e.g. DSN) to ensure continuous coverage, while the astrometric ones are acquired on-board through navigation cameras or dedicated payloads.

Due to the low data rate available and the performances of the cameras, LICIACube OD-NAV tasks for the Didymos approach phase will rely on radiometric observables. Nonetheless, any optical observable will be used for the a-posteriori orbit reconstruction.

A great source of uncertainty is also due to the thrusters. Due to the lack of a detailed characterization of the thrusters it is quite difficult to provide realistic values for the related accuracy. Moreover, the LICIACube mission will perform only up to 3 different orbital maneuvers, preventing the capability of any calibration during the mission, usually possible if a large set of maneuvers has been planned.


Acknowledgments: This research was supported by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) within the LICIAcube project (ASI-INAF agreement AC n. 2019-31-HH.0).

References: [1] P.Tortora et al. “Didymos Gravity Science through Groundbased and Satellite-to-Satellite Doppler Tracking”, EGU General Assembly 2020.

[2] E.Dotto et al. “LICIACube - the Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroids: in support of the NASA DART mission towards asteroid (65803) Didymos”, Plan. Space Sci., 2020, submitted.

[3] V. Di Tana et al., “ArgoMoon: There is a Nano-Eyewitness on the SLS”, IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 30-36, 1 April 2019, doi: 10.1109/MAES.2019.2911138.

[4] T. J. Martin-Mur and B. Young, “Navigating MarCO, the First Interplanetary CubeSats”, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA

[5] A.F.Cheng at al. “AIDA DART asteroid deflection test: Planetary defense and science objectives”, Plan. Space Sci., Vol. 157, pp. 104-115, 2018.

How to cite: Gai, I., Lombardo, M., and Zannoni, M. and the LICIACube Team: Challenges in Orbit Determination for Deep-Space Science CubeSat: the case of LICIACube., Europlanet Science Congress 2020, online, 21 Sep–9 Oct 2020, EPSC2020-885,, 2020.

Vincenzo Della Corte, Alessandra Rotundi, Ivano Bertini, Vladimir Zakharov, Laura Inno, Andrea Longobardo, Alessio Aboudan, Carlo Bettanini, Giacomo Colombatti, AliceMaria Piccirillo, Elena Martellato, Stavro Ivanovski, Giampaolo Ferraioli, Fabrizio Dirri, Ernesto Palomba, Eleonora Ammanito, Marilena Amoroso, and Giuseppe Sindoni


Dust is a ubiquitous component of our galaxy and Solar System. The Earth accumulates roughly 100 tons of space dust per day, with dimensions ranging from nanometers up to millimeter [1]. Measurements of dust proper]ties and their distribution provide important information to space science in modelling the birth and growth of the Solar System [2]. The information gained from studying these small particles has been valuable for improving our understanding of the ongoing physical processes of asteroids, comets, Kuiper Belt objects, and planetary rings [3]. The dust particles majority originate within the Solar System, typically are produced by cometary activity or by impacts on planetary or asteroid surfaces. A portion of dust dates back to the birth of the Solar System and a small fraction is of interstellar origin. These particles travel with hypersonic speeds typically in the range 10–70 km/s. The interest to these particles is caused by the fact that they are (1) samples of a distant astonomical bodies, (2) major conrtibutors in the planetary surface growth, and (3) they provide information about the origin and dynamics of the early Solar System

GIADA instrument onboard Rosetta/ESA space probe, an example of dust impact sensor.

The Grain Impact Analyzer and Dust Accumulator (GIADA) on board the ESA Rosetta probe performed the dynamical study of the dust ejected by the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. [5]. GIADA  measured speed, optical cross section and momentum of dust particles larger than 60 μm and the cumulative dust flux for particles smaller than 5 μm. One of the three sub-systems constituting GIADA, the Impact Sensor (IS – Figure 1) [5], measured the momentum of individual dust particle [6]. The GIADA-IS consisted in a squared aluminium plate with a sensitive area of 100 mm x 100 mm, five ceramic piezoelectric sensors (PZTs), with a resonant frequency of  200 kHz, connected to the Al plate (in the plate center and at the 4 corners). A dust particle impact generates the Lamb waves propagating over Al plate.. The PZTs detect these waves and convert them into an electric potential proportional to the particle’s momentum.

We propose to include an instrument of similar concept as GIADA-IS in the scientific payload of Comet Interceptor (and cubesats) for measuring dynamical properties of dust.

Figure 1 GIADA impact Sensor

DISC onboard Comet Interceptor spacecrafts.

DISC (Figure 2) is a dust impact sensor, part of Dust Field and Plasma instrument., This instrument will be mounted on two of the three Comet Interceptor (CI) spacecrafts, It will provide an  in situ characterization of dust particles in the coma of a Dynamically New Comet or an interstellar object.

In particular, it will measure the momentum of individual dust particles during the high-speed CI flyby to its target. From the momentum, knowing the speed of the S/C, individual particle speed is retrieved.  DISC overall aims are to determine:

  • dust particle mass distribution;
  • dust particle count;
  • dust particle impact duration;
  • dust particle density/structure;
  • dust coma structures.

The sensor capabilities will allow to measure during CI close encounter: dust mass distribution from particles with mass 10-15–10-8 kg ejected from the nucleus (this measurement will be performed by DISC onboard 2 different CI spacecrafts to disentangle the dust flux coming directly from the nucleus and the dust flux of particles reflected by the solar radiation pressure. DISC will be able to count  particles with mass >10-15 kg.

Despite the difference in physical processes in the hyper speed impacts (the fly by speed of CI will be from 7 to 70 km/s) and low speed impacts (measured by GIADA-IS during Rosetta mission), DISC mechanical configuration will allow provide particles momentum measurements. In fact, the shockwaves generated by the high-speed impacts become Lamb wave (measured by GIADA-IS) in the close proximity of the particle impact point.

Figure 2 DISC exploded view.

Impact Particle Monitor-a proposed dust sensor for cubesat

We propose to equip one of the external panels of a cubesat with PZT transducers. This external panel will act as a dust sensitive surface and will be able to detect and monitor particles impacting the cubesat (Figure 3). This configuration can be applied in different mission scenario:

  • • Low Earth Orbit to monitor μm- to mm-sized debris (high speed impacts)
  • Small exploration cubesat: detection of stable or transient dust structures around small bodies, planets or satellites.
  • In situ detection of dusty or icy plumes with cubesats .

Figure 3 ILP mounted on an external face of a 6U Cubesat: left) sensing surface; right) PZT transducers.


This research was supported by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) within the ASI-INAF agreement I/032/05/0. 


[1] F.J.M. Rietmeijer, et al. 2016, Laboratory analyses of meteoric debris in the upper stratosphere from settling bolide dust clouds, Icarus, 266, 217-234.

[2] M. Fulle, et al. 2016, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko preserved the pebbles that formed planetesimals, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 462, issue Suppl 1, pp. S132-S137.

[3] M. Fulle, et al. 2017, The dust-to-ices ratio in comets and Kuiper belt objects, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc., 469 (Suppl_2): S45-S49

[4] Della Corte et al. 2014 GIADA: its status after the Rosetta cruise phase and on ground activity in support of the encounter with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Journal of Astronomical Instrumentation

[5] Esposito et al. 2002, Physical aspects of an Impact Sensor for the detection of cometary dust momentum onboard the Rosetta Space mission. Adv. Space Research.

[6] Della Corte, V. et al., 2016, 67P/C-G Inner Coma dust properties from 2.2 AU inbound to 2 AU outbound to the Sun, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 462, pp. S210-S219.

How to cite: Della Corte, V., Rotundi, A., Bertini, I., Zakharov, V., Inno, L., Longobardo, A., Aboudan, A., Bettanini, C., Colombatti, G., Piccirillo, A., Martellato, E., Ivanovski, S., Ferraioli, G., Dirri, F., Palomba, E., Ammanito, E., Amoroso, M., and Sindoni, G.: Dust Impact Sensors for small spacecrafts , Europlanet Science Congress 2020, online, 21 Sep–9 Oct 2020, EPSC2020-1014,, 2020.

Raphael Moreno, Jeanne Treuttel, David González-Ovejero, Lina Gatilova, Boris Segret, and Emmanuel Lellouch

Teracube is an instrument concept in the Tera-Hertz frequency range for planetary atmosphere remote sensing with a CubeSat. The TERACUBE-study goal is to initiate the development of a new ultra-compact and portable generation of heterodyne receivers centered at a frequency near 576 GHz. Such receiver is based on the technology currently carried on the L1-ESA JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission, (at 1200 GHz, the high frequency part of the Submillimeter Wave Instrument, is being developed and manufactured at LERMA/Observatoire de Paris). The compactness of this instrument will be such that it can be embarked on a CubeSat. This is motivated by the potentiality and viability for the study of planetary atmospheres in-situ, as demonstrated by the recent Mars Cube One cubesats (MarCO-A and MarCO-B) riding along with the NASA InSight mission, which succeeded in a flyby of Mars in 2018.

TERACUBE will operate at submillimetre (sub-mm) wavelengths, providing unique data on planetary atmosphere dynamics, composition and temperature. As a very good example, the TERACUBE science case applied to Venus atmosphere variability is complementary to the proposed ESA M5 mission ENVISION to study Venus atmosphere and geology. The high spectral resolution (e.g. 100 KHz) and sensitivity of such a heterodyne receiver will allow the spatial and temporal mapping of i) Doppler lineshifts winds, ii) abundance of minor species (e.g. CO(5-4) at 576 GHz, H2O110-101 at 557 GHz) down to a few ppb, and iii) atmospheric temperature, in the altitude range of 70-120 km on Venus.

In order for CubeSats scientific payloads to evolve towards the most compact architectures possible while integrating THz instruments, it is essential to consider the receiver and the antenna as a single unit, whereas until now the approach has been conservative and consisted of studying them separately.TERACUBE-study has two major objectives: 1) The system design of a high spectral resolution instrument at 576 GHz to achieve a reduction in mass and volume by a factor of 5 to 10 compared to existing solutions, and 2) Study and fabrication of the first bricks of the demonstrator (MMIC Schottky, Si micro-fabrication of the planar metasurface antenna). This high-risk interdisciplinary project, led by LERMA, brings together three different institutes, whose best areas of expertise will be used to ensure the success of this project: design and study of an integrated room temperature receiver using THz GaAs Schottky diodes (LERMA), microtechnologies (C2N: micro-machining on Si, GaAs Schottky diodes) and modulated metasurface antennas (IETR). TERACUBE-study proposes the first impetus for the integration of a THz instrument.

Figure 1: Left: Metasurface antenna integrated into the chassis of a CubeSat and typical dimensions for the 600 GHz unit cell. Right: Ultra-compact receiver (50×20×5 mm3) made with a stack-up of micro-machined Silicium wafers for integration of a 576 GHz Schottky heterodyne receiver.


This project is supported by LABEX ESEP : ANR-11-LABEX-0047 and programme d’investissement d’avenir : ANR-10-IDEX-0001-02 PSL

How to cite: Moreno, R., Treuttel, J., González-Ovejero, D., Gatilova, L., Segret, B., and Lellouch, E.: TERACUBE: THz instrument concept for CubeSat, Europlanet Science Congress 2020, online, 21 Sep–9 Oct 2020, EPSC2020-350,, 2020.