Robusta

Robusta is a nanosatellite built to the cubesat standard, measuring 10 cm on a side, weighing less than 1 kg and requiring less than 1 watt of power. Designed entirely by students, its mission was to study the effects of solar and cosmic radiation on bipolar electronic components.

The Robusta project (Radiation On Bipolar University Satellite Test Application) was initiated in 2006 following CNES’s Expresso (EXpérimentations et PRojets Etudiants dans le domaine des SyStème Orbitaux et ballons stratosphériques) call for projects from higher education institutions. Robusta-1A was a nanosatellite designed by students to study the effects of space radiation on electronic components. Launched on the first flight of Europe’s Vega launcher on 13 February 2012, it only functioned for a few days and eventually re-entered Earth’s atmosphere 3 years later in early 2015.

Satellites are sometimes subjected to harsh space radiation likely to damage their electronic circuits. A technique has been developed on the ground to speed up evaluation of electronic components’ ability to withstand such cumulative doses of radiation. The Robusta satellite’s mission was to verify this method and explain why some electronic components widely used in satellites are more sensitive to radiation than others.

The small satellite was built entirely at Montpellier 2 University by students pursuing a Master’s degree in electronics, electronic engineering and automation (EEA) at the Faculty of Science, electronics, robotics and industrial IT (ERII) students at Polytech' Montpellier, and mechanical engineering and computer-integrated manufacturing (GMP) and electrical and industrial IT engineering (GEII) students at the Nîmes institute of technology (IUT). CNES provided support to students working on the project and assured compliance with space standards and space debris regulations.