Launch of the Belgian satellites Picasso and Simba


Two small Belgian scientific satellites will be launched into space in March by the Vega rocket from Kourou in French Guiana.

Picasso and Simba are part of the generation of "cubesats", small, less costly devices formed by cubic units measuring 10cm and weighing a total of 10kg. Their names, which refer to the famous Spanish artist and Disney's Lion King, are, of course, just amusing nicknames for very serious scientific projects: Picasso for "PICosatellite for Atmospheric and Space Science Observations" and Simba for "Sun-earth IMBAlance".

The Picasso satellite from the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) will be used to measure the distribution of ozone in the stratosphere, and also to estimate temperature changes up to the mesosphere and, finally, to characterise plasma in the ionosphere. For this, it will be equipped with a miniature imaging spectrometer and an electric current detector.

Its associate, developed by the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (IRM), with the KU Leuven, will use its radiometer to study our planet's energy budget, namely the inventory of the energy received and lost by the Earth's climate system at the outer atmosphere. It will be possible to deduce from this whether the planet is heating or cooling.

As Didier Pieroux, the head of the Picasso project, points out, "the PICASSO mission will demonstrate over its 2-year mission that CubeSats have reached the technological maturity needed to become genuine scientific tools worthy of consideration by the Earth Observation community".