The Robusta-3A nanosatellite, a Montpellier passenger atop the Ariane 6 rocket for its inaugural flight

The Robusta-3A nanosatellite, a Montpellier passenger atop the Ariane 6 rocket for its inaugural flight

Robusta-3A est né dans la salle blanche du Centre spatial universitaire de Montpellier. Midi Libre – JEAN-MICHEL MART

Conçu par le Centre spatial universitaire de Montpellier, le nanosatellite a été sélectionné par Arianespace. Un beau cadeau pour le centre et ses étudiants et l'aboutissement de dix ans d'efforts sur un projet au service de la prévision météorologique.

On the headdress of Ariane 6, right up there at the top, there is their signature drawn by their hand. Wonderful honor given to Romain Briand and Axel Guiraud, the two Montpellier engineers from the CSUM, the Montpellier University Space Center, who, in Kourou in May, integrated into the dispenser – the system which will release the nanosatellite – Robusta-3A, passenger from Hérault on the rocket's qualification flight. Another consecration, from the CSUM, selected for this vol.

The Robusta-3A nanosatellite, a Montpellier passenger atop the Ariane 6 rocket for its inaugural flight

Romain Briand (l.), Axel Guiraud sign the Ariane 6 headdress. ESA/CNES/ARIANEGROUP – T. LEDUC

"It’s a source of great pride, says the father and boss of the space center, Laurent Dusseau, with modesty. Recognition of the work we have provided during previous flights ", the underlined value of Montpellier productions. However, the director does not boast, torn between the feeling of "emptiness left by the departure of the nanosatellite – we know that we will not see him again –, after ten years dedicated to this project and a lot of investment from our entire team", the’ uncertainty inherent to this industry and the challenge, in terms of credit, of successfully putting its new platform into orbit.

A battery of "torture tests"

"Space is merciless, we are never calm when we are faced with a launch. No one can ever guarantee anything about the success of the flight and the functioning of the satellite. We've put everything on our side to make it go well, but we're going to hold our breath until we receive the first signal from Robusta-3A."

So to reduce stress, beyond the experience gained from previous successes, the engineers, technicians and students of the space center on rue de Saint-Priest have ’ quot;transferred" to their nanosat, inflicting "a whole bunch of "torture tests", list Laurent Dusseau, thanks to the tools at their disposal. "We tested, retested, played and replayed the entire mission", Robusta-3A was subjected to intense vibrations, then exposed to extreme cold and high heat, in particular, designed more robustly than small cubesats of a unit, "until one is convinced of its reliability& quot;.

Measuring the presence of water vapor in the troposphere

Now, we must wait as we will have to endure the 46 minutes of silence separating its entry into orbit at an altitude of some 500 km and its "awakening", for science.

The little man measuring 30 centimeters by ten on a side will have an essential role to play in the coming months. It will have to relay large volumes of GPS data to the CSUM control room, which the center will send to IGN for processing and which will ultimately feed Météo France's Arome model of weather forecasts. This involves "characterizing the water vapor in the lower layer of the atmosphere" using of the deviation of GPS signals that it causes. To do this, you need "a transmitter at the top", the satellites of the GPS network, and a receiver at the bottom. "There are many stations of this kind on land, none at sea, continues Laurent Dusseau. We are going to equip a ferry and check that it works before installing this receiver of approximately 1 m3" on other ships, which will send its readings to Robusta-3A.

Noting the presence of vapor in the troposphere, in the Mediterranean, has a high value in forecasting Cévennes episodes. This experiment, if it works and proves relevant, will potentially be a way to develop.

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