A project coordinated by the Italian Space Agency
Launch opportunity provided by the European Space Agency
STATUS: Launched on 13 July 2022, operational in-orbit
GreenCube is a 3U CubeSat aimed at demonstrating an autonomous biological laboratory for plants cultivation on-board a CubeSat platform. The satellite project is managed by the S5Lab research team at Sapienza University of Rome and it involves ENEA (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) and University of Naples “Federico II”. The project is coordinated by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and it has benefitted of a launch opportunity offered by the European Space Agency. The spacecraft has been launched on-board the maiden Vega-C flight on 13 July 2022 and it has been deployed in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) at approximately 5800 km of altitude. GreenCube is carrying microgreens (brassicacae) seeds for the farthest experiment ever of plants cultivation in microgravity.
The spacecraft main payload is composed of a pressurized vessel of approximately 20 x 10 x 10 cm of size hosting actuators and sensors needed for environmental monitoring and control and to allow the cultivation of the microgreens. The pressurized vessel is autonomously able to monitor air composition and pressure, humidity, air recirculation, lighting conditions and, ultimately, to optically monitor the plants growth through VIS and IR cameras. As for the spacecraft bus, commercial components already tested in-orbit by the S5Lab team are allowing spacecraft control and communication in two bands (UHF and S-band) between 5800 and 10000 km of slant range, more than 5 times higher than the “usual” slant ranges considered by LEO CubeSat missions.
A secondary payload has been developed by the Institute of Space Systems at the University of Stuttgart. The payload, named PETRUS, is a PPT (Pulsed Plasma Thruster) motor that will be used as additional attitude control system, which will be demonstrated in-orbit during the operations. The spacecraft propulsion system is hosted in the tuna can volume of the 3U CubeSat.