What is PROVE-Pathfinder?


Project Description

PROVE (Pointable Radiometer for Observation of Volcanic Emissions) is a potential payload for the UoB CubeSat, proposed by academics in Earth Sciences department. A challenging, but exciting and multidisciplinary payload!

Pathfinder is a potential payload for the bigger UoBSat-1 mission.

This project aims to build a CubeSat payload as a technology demonstrator for detecting and tracking volcanic ash clouds using novel sensing technology. There is a strong scientific and economic motivation for this technology. Knowledge of the 3-D structure of ash clouds is vital as airlines and engine manufacturers move towards airspace management through a dose-based ash cloud approach. The costs associated with grounding planes during volcanic eruptions provide the economic driver. The project is student-led, building on designs made as part of many undergraduate and postgraduate projects from across several faculties at the University of Bristol.

Many different disciplines collaborate within this project. Work is done both within the curriculum, for instance as undergraduate projects in Aerospace and Electrical Engineering, as well as with student societies outside of teaching hours.


Goals & Objectives

Science Goals

  • Primary: Remotely monitor active volcanoes through 3D reconstruction of ash clouds.
  • Secondary: Use thermal images to show patterns in eruptions. To monitor other thermal phenomena such as lava flows, forest fires, and urban heat islands.
  • Tertiary: Produce localized, high-resolution DEMs (Digital Elevation Models) for hazard management, e.g. landslides and lahars.
Volcano Ash Reconstruction

Educational Objectives

A further objective of the PROVE-Pathfinder project is to give students the opportunity to work on space-based research and payloads. This allows them to gain useful experience in the space sector. Multiple student research projects related to PROVE-Pathfinder have been undertaken as part of undergraduate degrees. Several summer internships have been sponsored by the University of Bristol, UKSA, and Royal Astronomy Society.


Project Technological Development

Project Status

Equipment & Configuration


The 2U payload consists of mainly Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) components with some custom PCBs. A BeagleBone Enhanced Industrial is used as an onboard computer, a Basler ACA5472-5gc as a high-resolution visual camera, and a Flir Tau 2 640 as an infrared camera.


Fly Your Satellite!

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ESA Logo

With the support of the Education Office of the European Space Agency under the educational Fly Your Satellite! Test Opportunities programme, we will be conducting the environmental testing campaign of PROVE-Pathfinder at ESA’s CubeSat Support Facility in ESEC-Galaxia in Belgium.