November 13, 2019


Measuring radiation doses on bipolar components in low Earth orbit
Prime contractorUniversity of Montpellier Space Centre (CSUM)
Launch date23 June 2017
Launch baseSriharikota, India – PSLV-C38
Orbit400 x 400 km
Mission lifetimeAbout 2 years (active from 2019)

ROBUSTA stands for Radiation On Bipolar for University Satellite Test Application. Robusta-1B is the result of a call issued by CNES in 2006 for ideas from French universities and engineering schools to develop nanosatellites. The University of Montpellier was the only one to propose developing a first 1U cubesat called Robusta.

Development took six years, involved 20 permanent university staff—research scientists, lecturers and technicians—and enabled more than 200 IUT technology, Master’s degree and PhD students to see first-hand what it’s like to work in the space industry. Robusta was launched on the first flight of Vega on 13 February 2012. Unfortunately, the cubesat failed to function once in orbit, but the University of Montpellier built on this experience—the first of its kind in France—to create in July 2011 the University of Montpellier Space Centre (CSUM), with the status of a joint service unit with the mission to pursue development of cubesats.

The first cubesat developed by CSUM was Robusta-1B, derived from Robusta.

Robusta-1B’s mission is to study in orbit the deterioration of bipolar-technology electronic components, which are especially sensitive to low radiation dose rates. The same components—with the same function, fabricator and date-code—were irradiated on the ground using the dose-rate switching method. Measurements acquired in orbit are compared to those on the ground: if they vary, the dose-rate switching method could be improved, if they match, it could be conclusively validated.

Robusta-1B’s payload consists of:

• Two sets of two bipolar components (amplifiers and comparators) that are highly sensitive to low radiation dose rates
• A device for measuring the radiation dose received by the payload
• A device for measuring drift in the electrical parameters of the components under test

The bipolar components’ electrical parameters and radiation doses are measured regularly in orbit, stored in the satellite’s onboard memory and then downlinked to the ground station when it is within range of the Montpellier region.

Robusta-1B’s other goal is to validate in orbit the Robusta-1U bus developed by CSUM. To this end, satellite health data are regularly recorded and downlinked to the ground station.

Robusta-1B functioned perfectly for six months. It is still sending back housekeeping and payload telemetry, but it is no longer possible to send it telecommands.

More than 50 students have worked on Robusta-1B.


Crédits : CNES