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In less than two semesters, the first cohort of students in the Interdisciplinary Space Master (ISM) have successfully conceived, designed and developed GOLDCREST, a CubeSat project launched as part of their studies with the aim to measure Earth soil moisture from space.

The team of ISM students collaborated remotely to conceive the 1U CubeSat, a small satellite measuring just 10 cm3. The satellite has been designed to measure soil moisture using GNSS reflectometry, where measurements are performed using GPS signals. “Measuring soil moisture is an active field of research in the world today, so choosing that as the focal point seemed a good goal,” says Dr. Thoemel, Head of the CubeSat laboratory who led the students in this endeavour.

CubeSats have been a catalyst for change within the space industry. While they have been used experimentally in recent times, they are becoming increasingly popular with hundreds of launches scheduled for the next couple of years.

“What is special about our satellite is its size. Using a CubeSat to perform these measurements would bring its technology to a wider audience,” he continues. Very small satellites are cheaper to produce, therefore the subsequent data collection could be available at a cheaper cost. In the same way that smartphone technology has been gradually filtered down at a lower price point over time, CubeSats such as GOLDCREST would allow for the analysis to be shared with smaller agricultural entities who ordinarily may not be able to afford access to such technology.

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