#T-Tec 2021 - Telespazio Technology Contest
On December 16, 2021, the TTec award ceremony was hosted at the Italy Pavilion in Expo Dubai 2020. We spent a couple of days in Dubai.
Project overview

Team members: Alessandro Lotti, Giacomo Curzi, Anton Bahu, Alfredo Locarini, and Dario Modenini.

In 2021, our team from the Microsatellites and Space Microsystems Lab at the University of Bologna ranked first at the Third edition of Telespazio’s Technology Contest (#T-TeC 2021). Our proposal consisted in a modular 12U CubeSat concept designed for on-orbit life extension.

The proposal was sustained by preliminary system and economic studies, which were presented to the evaluation committee as part of the selection process. In this project, I specifically handled the proposal aspects related to the data relay service and close proximity operations. Additionally, I served as the representative for the project, presenting during both the selection process and in Dubai. Check out the material below!

Our proposal secured a prize of €10,000.


Satellites lifetime is limited by the amount of propellant they carry onboard for orbit maintenance. Nonetheless, the failure of a single component can lead to disposal way before schedule. In the presence of faults, a throughout health analysis and a possible recovery would be extremely valuable options to mitigate economic losses. In fact, it is not always possible to perform troubleshooting from ground.

Our proposal consists of a modular satellite concept targeting on-orbit life extension of space assets. The proposed system is a 12U CubeSat obtained as the assembly of autonomous servicers. Those can separate once in orbit to perform independent missions. While the main 6U module is intended for refuelling, two 3U units will provide signal relay, diagnostics, and detumbling capabilities. Between services, the former may be used to refurbish the secondary ones as well. For expensive manoeuvres, the main module can be used as a tow unit to reach a different orbit.

Our concept assumes both target and servicer to be equipped with a standard miniaturized docking module leveraging the classical probe–drogue configuration. To this aim, we conceived a modification to the mechanism proposed by Branz et al. [1] adding a fuel valve and a diagnostic port. Close range navigation leverages monocular cameras and deep learning [2], as edge co-processors can enable onboard real time inference of machine learning algorithms [3].


[1] F. Branz, L. Olivieri, F. Sansone, and A. Francesconi, ‘Miniature docking mechanism for CubeSats’, Acta Astronautica, vol. 176, pp. 510–519, Nov. 2020. DOI.

[2] L. Pasqualetto Cassinis, R. Fonod, E. Gill, I. Ahrns, and J. Gil Fernandez, ‘CNN-Based Pose Estimation System for Close-Proximity Operations Around Uncooperative Spacecraft’, presented at the AIAA Scitech 2020 Forum, Orlando, FL, Jan. 2020. DOI.

[3] G. Giuffrida et al., ‘CloudScout: A Deep Neural Network for On-Board Cloud Detection on Hyperspectral Images’, Remote Sensing, vol. 12, no. 14, p. 2205, Jul. 2020. DOI.

Award ceremony