PROVE (Pointable Radiometer for Observation of Volcanic Emissions) is a potential payload for the UoB CubeSat-1 mission, proposed by academics in Earth Sciences department. A challenging, but exciting and multidisciplinary payload!

Project Description

The 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.


Drone Footage of Pacaya Volcano

Credits: Bristol Flight Lab

Thermal Infrared Footage of Fuego Volcano

Credits: Bristol Flight Lab

3D Reconstructed Model of Pacaya Volcano

Science Objectives

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

Project Technological Development

Research - TRL 1
Scientific investigations of volcanic ash plumes. Initial work originated from UoBSat-1
Research - TRL 2
Concept of operations formulated. Selection of camera sensors, On-Board Computer (OBC) based on analytical studies
Research/Development - TRL 3
Multiple student research projects. Intense software and electronics research, transition to development
2021 Q2
Development - TRL 4
PCB manufactured, software functionality validated. Vacuum testing and thermal analysis of individual cameras, OBC
2022 Q1
Development - TRL 5
FlatSat model assembly. Environmental testing: vacuum, vibrational. Thermal analysis and software functional testing
2022 Q3
Development - TRL 6
Completion of software development. Full FlatSat demonstration in space environment through inhouse testing
2022 Q4
Deployment - TRL 7
Engineering Model (EM) assembly in a clean room. Software integrational and functional testing. Environmental testing at ESA-Galaxia
2023 Q2
Deployment - TRL 8
Flight Model (FM) assembly. FM qualification in the operational environment. System is ready for launch
2023 Q4
Deployment TRL - 9
Successful payload deployment in the space. Successful operation of the payload for multiple cycles
2024 Q1


Flir Tau 2 Infrared Camera

Captures thermal images of selected volcanoes

BeagleBone Enhanced OBC

Controls the payload, data transfer, and mission sequence

Basler High-Resolution Visual Camera

Provides high-resolution images for building a digital elevation model

Environmental Testing Campaign

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.