Development Methodologies for Next-Generation Instrumentation for Nanosatellite

Recent years have seen a rapid growth in the use of nanosatellites. However, whilst a recent National Academy of Sciences report concluded that nanosatellites “have already produced high-value science, as demonstrated by peer-reviewed publications in high-impact journals”, and that “they are useful as targeted investigations to augment the capabilities of large missions”, it also recommended technology development in four key areas; development of miniaturized instrument technology, high-bandwidth communications, precision attitude control, and propulsion. This project addresses the foremost of these priority areas, by focusing on instrument development methodologies necessary to underpin the use of nanosatellites for scientific, commercial, &/or societal benefits.
  • Number of scholarships One
  • Value Home/EU tuition fees only
  • Opens 3 April 2017
  • Deadline 30 June 2017
  • Help with Tuition fees
  • Duration 36 months


Candidates should have achieved (or expect to achieve) a minimum 2.1 (or equivalent) undergraduate degree in an Engineering, or Physical Sciences degree. Key Areas: Aeronautical Maritime and Transport Engineering, Electrical and Electronic, Mechanical Engineering.

Project Details

The objective of this project is to establish new knowledge and procedures for next-generation instrumentation on-board nanosatellites that can be re-used in a variety of future projects. In order to achieve this the project has a number of aims, including, further development of pre-existing simulation software, with the aim of adding instrument simulation capabilities to the software, development of a bench-top instrument demonstrator, together with test and calibration strategies for future instruments.

Initially the student will be given several short, directed tasks based around the use of existing simulation systems and bench top demonstrators that will introduce them to the wide range of areas that need to be addressed in a nanosatellite project, and provide a background for the following instrumentation work. During this period the student will also be introduced to a number of potential use cases for nanosatellite instruments.

The student will then undertake a paper study of potential solutions for one or two of the use cases. Once a feasible solution has been identified the student will be expected to develop a work plan for design, fabrication and testing of a bench-top demonstration of the solution. This will take advantage of the existing simulation systems in designing and testing solutions, and provide an opportunity to add new capabilities to the system by developing instrument simulation codes.

The student will then be expected to build prototypes to prove functionality and enhance technology readiness level of solutions, and to work towards interfacing these prototypes to the NANOBED facility located in the Missions Laboratory of the University of Strathclyde. It is intended that the final piece of work will be an instrument level demonstration that can be tested in as near to final configuration as is practicable on the ground. During this work the student will also be asked to identify risks and mitigations to technical obstacles, and to develop test and calibration strategies for the finished demonstration system.

This program of work provides the student with an opportunity to develop a systems level understanding across a broad range of disciplines and in leading a science driven instrumentation project. This opportunity, to develop a proof of concept mission for an identified down-stream requirement, will provide a number of publication opportunities, which in turn will enhance potential for a more significant follow on project.

Secondary outputs will be the development of simulation, test and calibration systems and associated procedures which will be re-usable in a range of future projects.

Key subject areas: CubeSat, Instrumentation, Space Technology, Earth Observation, Satellite

The project is sponsored by the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh with whom the student will collocate for period of the study project.

Duration of Project: 36 months