Aurora satellite taking Lapland into space era

The construction of an aurora satellite, intended for scientific exploration, has begun at the Sodankylä Space Campus. The satellite, due to be finished in two years, will expand the long-standing measurement activities of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory to space. 

LappiSat-1 will be a nanosatellite, with volume similar to six milk cartons and weighing about ten kilograms. It is to be launched to an orbit with an altitude of 500–750 kilometers. Its mission goal is to obtain new information about the polar lights and changes in the geoenvironment.

“The satellite will provide measurement data and imagery of the auroral oval. The arctic region is especially vulnerable to space-borne disturbances, effects of which are seen on the Earth’s surface, as well”, says the Director of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, professor Eija Tanskanen.

The observatory has conducted research on the auroral phenomena by ground-based measurements for over a hundred years, as part of its statutory task. Obtaining observations from above the auroral regions, in addition to the ground data, will enhance the overall understanding of the phenomena. “Different measurement methods will complement each other. The satellite is a natural extension to the long-standing measurement activities of our observatory”, Tanskanen remarks.

LappiSat-1 will be constructed entirely at the workshops of the observatory’s space campus in Tähtelä. The campus’ space laboratory is currently under construction.

”Constructing the flight-ready satellite is going to take about two years. Commercially available technical solutions and space-proven components are utilized in the work. The launch to orbit could potentially take place late in 2023”, according to Laboratory Manager Jouni Envall from the observatory.

LappiSat-1 is the first satellite project for both the Oulu University and the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory. It receives substantial funding from the European Regional Development Fund, through the Regional Council of Lapland. Other partners in the project consortium are the Lapland University of Applied Sciences (technical development) and the University of Lapland (issues of space law). 

”The costs related to satellite building have decreased considerably since the turn of the millennium, as the satellites have shrinked in size. Even mid-sized universities nowadays possess the capabilities to build their own satellite. LappiSat-1 presents an opportunity to Northern Finland to take a front row seat in the developing space era”, states Eija Tanskanen.

“Just thinking of current day weather forecasts or navigation devices used while driving, satellite operations truly are a part of our every day lives”, continues Jouni Envall.

 

Kuva 1: Schematic picture of LappiSat satellite. Credits: Elsa and Eija Tanskanen, background aurora picture Jouni Envall.

 

More information:

Director professor Eija Tanskanen, science, 050 – 566 3264, eija.tanskanen@sgo.fi

Head of laboratory TkT Jouni Envall, technical, 050 – 410 4304, jouni.envall@sgo.fi

Last updated: 20.4.2021