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A CubeSat constellation for atmospheric analysis of Earth

Mission objectives

CHESS is a Swiss space initiative federating academia and industry partners to drive multiple space experiments through the development of Swiss-made scientific instruments. The main science objective is to improve the understanding of the upper atmospheres of planets by in-situ measurements.

Taking advantage of the popular, cost-effective CubeSat standard, we hereby propose a constellation of identical nanosatellites to study the composition of the terrestrial atmosphere and its density.


Mission Profile 

  • Constellation of 2x 3U Cubesats 

  • Launch on a Low Earth Orbit with one circular orbit and one elliptical

  • Flight time of 2 years (min.)

  • Launch target: Q4-2022

Scientific objectives

  • Measure Earth’s present chemical composition, and its evolution over time.

  • Understand the variation of the composition of the exosphere.  The time scales and the driving mechanisms

  • Proof that this low-cost and miniaturized measurement technology has a major impact on our understanding of planetary atmospheres to pave the way for installing similar probes into extraterrestrial atmospheres

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Main payload

The latest valuable scientific data of Earth’s exosphere composition with a mass spectrometer was recorded back in 1983 and performed with now-outdated technology, with modest sensitivity thus leading to poor-quality isotope patterns. UniBe, therefore, invented a state-of-the-art, 10-cm-class, low-cost time-of-flight mass spectrometer, the CubeSatTOF, which fits into 1U of a CubeSat. CubeSatTOF features outstanding performance for its size, offering a sensitivity rate and a dynamic range comparable to NIM/PEP/JUICE - a 30-cm-class instrument also developed by the University of Bern.

Developed by UniBern                            Size: 1U (10x10x10 cm)

                         Mass: 1 kg                            Power consumption: 7 W 


Secondary payloads

CHESS offers a unique framework for Swiss research institute or industry to validate new technology or scientific instrument. Our CubeSat platform is designed to embark on multiple, small, secondary payloads. Among them, we have a next-generation GNSS, a new type of solar cells, and a radio amateur payload allowing us to use their frequency bands.

Dual frequency multi-GNSS receiver - ETHZ

Based on the heritage of the GNSS boards currently flying on the two Astrocast 3U-CubeSat. ETH Zürich is developing a new generation of the GNSS benefiting from a new low-cost, dual-frequency, multi-GNSS receivers. With an extremely low power consumption, size, and weight compared to other receivers available for space it can achieve an orbit determination of few cm precision.


Not only will it provide CHESS with very precise timing and positioning but it will also allow to:

  • Measure the air density in the exosphere based on the air drag

  • Monitor space weather using the delays in the GNSS signals.

Our 3U CubeSat platform


Our vision:

Use simple, flight-proven subsystems and perform exhaustive testing to minimize the risk of mission failure


In-house built subsystems:

  • On-Board Computer by HES-SO

  • X-band transmitter, by HSLU

  • UHF/VHF transceiver by HSLU

  • GNSS, by ETHZ

COTS subsystems:

  • ADCS, with reaction wheels

  • EPS: power distribution board, battery, solar panels

  • Structure

  • X band and UHF-VHF antennas

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Les différents acteurs

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Image by SpaceX

Information session

Monday, 18th at 18:00  I  On Zoom

All information you need if you want to join the Team!

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