CNES projects library

November 8, 2023


NESS is a 3U nanosatellite tipping the scales at 4.9 kilograms, operating in low Earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 564 kilometers. This tiny demonstrator is designed to validate in orbit miniaturized technologies capable of detecting and locating interfering emissions on Earth. It is also carrying a magnetometer to measure Earth’s magnetic field. It will notably validate a project concept for which CNES is calling on local, agile and innovative start-ups.

Equipment and systems are today increasingly using Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) like Europe’s Galileo. The information these systems provide has become critical to our daily lives, supporting a wealth of applications, especially for transport and getting around. But such close dependence on navigation and timing data can be disrupted by intentional or unintentional interference affecting applications’ availability and performance. Disruption of navigation messages received by ground vehicles or aircraft, notably impacting safety, is a particularly good case in point. Similar disruptions are observed in the frequency bands space communications systems use to control satellites in orbit. Combating such interference is thus a key technological challenge. New means of detecting interfering emissions are envisioned to be able to locate them from space. This is where the NESS demonstration mission comes into the picture.

Drawing on the heritage of the EyeSat satellite launched by CNES in December 2019 and developed through the Nanolab Academy, this nanosatellite was developed and integrated by U-Space.

Once in LEO and with its four solar panels deployed, NESS will begin its technology demonstration mission. The satellite will use its SPECTROLITE instrument, developed by Syrlinks, to collect signals in L band (1 to 2 GHz) and S band (2 to 4 GHz). These frequencies serve:

  • Civil applications: digital radio, LTE mobile networks
  • Military applications: radar, telecommunications, air surveillance
  • Dual-use applications: geopositioning

Location and detection performance of measuring and processing systems will thus be assessed in a range of radio-electric scenes observed from orbit.

CNES was tasked with defining the NESS demonstrator and is system contracting authority. The agency is also contributing its expertise to manufacturers and start-ups involved in developing the nanosatellite and its instruments. CNES teams are operating and exploiting data from the demonstration mission.