PeakSat Selected to be one of 13 Greek CubeSats

The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki takes another big step in expanding its space activities through the launch of the project for the construction and launch of the “PeakSat” nanosatellite. Following a series of programmes in the space sector, the university will use existing infrastructure and expertise to develop state-of-the-art technologies through the new satellite.

The mission is based on the Cholomondas optical satellite communications station in Taxiarchis, Halkidiki. The Cholomondas astronomical station, managed by the Department of Theoretical Mechanics of the School of Physics, has been selected to be one of the three nodes of the HellasQCI network. The aim of the network is to connect the metropolitan cities of Greece to a quantum communications network, part of the corresponding European EuroQCI network. The optical satellite communications station is under construction and when completed will perform optical links with satellite systems.

The SpaceDot research group of the Electronics Laboratory at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering plays a key role in the implementation of the project. SpaceDot, through its participation in the European Space Agency’s “Fly Your Satellite! 3” programme with the AcubeSAT nanosatellite, has nurtured students' skills in nanosatellite design and construction. SpaceDot has in recent years created an incubator of space-related engineers and scientists, with more than 60 active members today.

The aim of the new PeakSat nano-satellite is to demonstrate optical satellite links from Low Earth Orbit to the Cholomondas station. Optical satellite communications in these orbits is a field that is under continuous development and is becoming increasingly necessary in modern times. Optical signals can transfer significantly more data between space and ground compared to conventional radio networks, as the increased bandwidth and focused beams used can achieve substantial increases in data rate. On the other hand, there are objective challenges that this technology has to address. Achieving links at altitudes above 500km is extremely difficult, as it requires the optical terminal to be aligned with the lens of the base station while the satellite is moving at a speed of 8 km/second.

Following the submission of the Aristotle University proposal, the consortium was accepted in March 2023 to participate in the Greek CubeSats In-Orbit Validation Projects programme by the European Space Agency. The kick-off of the new satellite development programme took place in April, and the project is currently in its fifth month.