June 3, 2021


Studying the zodiacal light and the Milky Way
Launch date18 December 2019
Launch baseGuiana Space Centre
OrbitSun-synchronous, 500 km
Mission lifetimeAbout 12 months

EyeSat is a 3U cubesat (34x10x10 cm) built as a pilot under the Nanolab-Academy project. The satellite comprises two parts: a mini-telescope designed to accomplish the science mission and a platform accommodating a set of housekeeping systems to operate the satellite on orbit (power management, temperature control, attitude control, etc.).

EyeSat was developed by more than 200 students from engineering schools and universities, most of them interns at CNES or partner organizations.

The detailed design phase was closed out in March 2016. The qualification model underwent mechanical, thermal and electromagnetic environment testing in the summer of 2018. The flight model was assembled in April 2019 and tested in May in readiness for launch on 18 December 2019. All of the satellite’s subsystems were successfully tested out during its first months in orbit, including its ability to acquire and downlink images of the sky and Earth.

Some images taken by EyeSat : Lake Maurice (Australia), Andromeda, Lagoon Nebula, and a UFO in the sky

The satellite’s pointing capabilities proved excellent. Unfortunately, premature wearing of its momentum wheels prevented the mission from accomplishing its science goals of studying the zodiacal light and imaging the Milky Way.

This mission will be accomplished by IRIS (Imager Realized for Interplanetary dust Study), composed of:

  • a baffle to limit stray light entering the instrument
  • an entrance telescope to collect light flux in a given direction and form a sharp image of the field of view on the detector
  • a set of filters arranged on two wheels, the first carrying spectral filters and the second polarization filters, both driven by a stepper motor
  • a CMOS colour detector to measure the light signal
  • proximity electronics to command the stepper motor and measure the position of the filter wheels

Besides its science mission, EyeSat has demonstrated 10 new technologies that are mostly the product of CNES’s R&D. These will include, for example, a flight computer based on Zynq, X-band telemetry and composite hinges.

All of these subsystems—with the exception of the momentum wheels—are in perfect working order since the satellite reached orbit and are enabling unprecedented experiments on the platform’s equipment.

The ground segment for the EyeSat mission comprises four subsystems:

  • a Command & Control Centre (CCC) at ISAE-SUPAERO
  • a back-up control centre at CNES (image below)
  • an S-band ground station (STC, part of CNES’s 2-GHz network) at Aussaguel
  • an X-band ground station (Telemetry Earth Terminal X-band or TETX) at ENAC