Agreement with D-Orbit to integrate DRAGO in the ION satellite

Image of the ION SCV LAURENTIUS satellite platform, where the DRAGO instrument will be integrated. Credit: D-Orbit.
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The IACTEC-Space programme of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) has signed an agreement with the Italian space tranporting company D-Orbit to integrate the payload of the DRAGO instrument into the ION Satellite Carrier. The aim of this project is to carry out in-orbit demonstration (IOD) operations during the next PULSE misión, which will take place in January 2021. The programme is carried out within IACTEC, the zone of technical and business collaboration of the IAC which is funded (Programme of Training) and infrastructure (IACTEC building) by the Cabildo Insular of Tenerife.

DRAGO (Demonstrator for Remote Analysis of Ground Observations) is a space camera in the near infrared to make Earth Observations. For this mision, the DRAGO payload is integrated in a standard CubeSat structure which will connect it with the electrical and data interface of the ION Satellite Carrier, which will let the operators on the ground test it as if it were one of the subsystems of the spacecraft. This approach to the integration of the payload allowed IACTEC-Space to win approval of DRAGO as an installed payload in record time.

As Álex Oscoz, the Principal Investigator of IACTEC-Space explains, “DRAGO is the first instrument developed by our team, so its integration in a structure such as ION is a real achievement for the project. We hope that DRAGO will be the first of many technological developments by IACTEC-Space, for both Earth observation and Astronomy, and that the collaboration with ION is maintained and strengthened in the future”.

The ION Satellite Carrier is a satellite platform designed, made, and operated by the D-Orbit company. Its main objective is to deploy a group of small satellites in precise orbital ranges, as it showed during the inaugural mission ORIGIN, launched in September 2020. However, the vehicle can also perform demonstration operations, using an innovative plug-and-play approach.

“We feel honoured to collaborate with a leading Spanish institution” said Renato Panesi, the commercial director of D-Orbit. Even though it isn’t our first mission to perform operations of demonstration and validation on orbit, it is the first time that we are using our plug-and-play approach. I am sure that the industry will appreciate the value of a service which significantly reduces the time and the cost needed to prepare and fly a payload in a demonstration mission, simplyfing the integration and operation phases at the same time”.

IACTEC will carry out the on-orbit demonstration and validation in collaboration with D-Orbit. The camera will take infrared images of the Canaries, as well as of other places on the surface of the planet to test its use in different applications of Earth observation. In the future, IACTEC plans to use DRAGO as the main payload in a nanosatellite called ALISIO (Advanced Land-Imaging Satellite for Infrared Observations).


Contact at IACTEC:

- Álex Oscoz: aoscoz [at] (aoscoz[at]iac[dot]es)

- José Alonso: joalbur [at] (joalbur[at]iac[dot]es)

- Alfonso Ynigo: alfonso.ynigo.rivera [at] (alfonso[dot]ynigo[dot]rivera[at]iac[dot]es)

Related projects
Satellite image of the Canary Islands taken by DRAGO-1
Development of optical payloads for micro-satellites for Earth observation from low orbits.
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