VTT opens up for new space startups

Last week Finnish Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT launched its small and lightweight hyperspectral camera to space with Aalto-1 nanosatellite. Scalable sensing technology on the camera is said to provide new opportunities for SmallSat-based services.

The camera operates in the visible and near-infrared spectrum and can measure wavelength range of 500–900 nanometres. This technology’s key advantage is that the measurement wavelengths are software programmable – the same camera hardware can be easily scaled to different applications, also after the launch.

”So far, hyperspectral imaging has only been possible with instruments in traditional, large satellites, but VTT’s technology now makes it possible to do hyperspectral imaging also from small satellites”, says Research Scientist Antti Näsilä. He has been involved in creating the first light-weight hyperspectral imager AaSI for Aalto-1, as well as hyperspectral imagers for the ESA's PICASSO and the upcoming Reaktor Hello World nanosatellite missions.

VTT's hyperspectral technology can be customized also for other wavelength ranges and specific needs. ”This technology enables us to work with start-ups, aerospace industry and other research institutes in order to enable new application and service development based on small satellites”, comments Anna Rissanen, who is leading the research team at VTT.

In recent years, the number of launches of small satellites have grown significantly, enabling much faster technical advances in comparison to traditional space industry. In addition to that space services on Earth pushed the boundaries for non-space industries. In Finland, there is a very promising company called ICEYE, which is developing 40+ microsatellites radar imagery constellation. Constellations can measure local data with much more rapid cycles than the traditional instruments, making it possible to create data-based services for industries not traditionally involved in space, such as agriculture and insurance.