The HUMSAT System: a CubeSat-based Constellation for In-situ and Inexpensive Environmental Measurements

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Ricardo Tubío-Pardavila1, Samuel A Vigil1, Jordi Puig-Suari1 and Fernando Aguado Agelet2, (1)California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, CA, United States, (2)Universidade de Vigo, Signal Theory and Communications, Vigo, Spain
There is a requirement for low cost in-situ measurements of environmental parameters such as air quality, meteorological data, and water quality in remote areas. Currently available solutions for such measurements include remote sensing from satellite and aircraft platforms, and in-situ measurements from mobile and aircraft platforms. Fixed systems such as eddy covariance networks, tall towers, and the Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON) are providing precision greenhouse gas measurements.

Within this context, the HUMSAT system designed by the University of Vigo (Spain) will complement existing high-precision measurement systems with low cost in-situ ground based sensors in remote locations using a constellation of CubeSats as a communications relay. The HUMSAT system standardizes radio communications in between deployed sensors and the CubeSats of the constellation, which act as store and forward satellites to ground stations for uploading to the internet. Current ground stations have been established at the University of Vigo (Spain) and California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly).
Users of the system may deploy their own environmental sensors to meet local requirements. The sensors will be linked to a low-cost satellite data transceiver using a standard HUMSAT protocol. The transceiver is capable of receiving data from the HUMSAT constellation to remotely reconfigure sensors without the need of physically going to the sensor location.

This transceiver uses a UHF channel around 437 MHz to exchange short data messages with the sensors. These data messages can contain up to 32 bytes of useful information and are transmitted at a speed around 300 bps. The protocol designed for this system handles the access to the channel by all these elements and guarantees a correct transmission of the information in such an scenario.

The University of Vigo has launched the first satellite of the constellation, the HUMSAT-D CubeSat in November 2013 and has deployed sensors in Spain and Brazil. Sensors will be also deployed by Cal Poly in the near future. In the following months, the SERPENS CubeSAT Mission, a joint project of the University of Brasilia and the University of Vigo will launch the second CubeSat of the constellation.