ESA logo
Your mission – CanSat
For a better experience please change your browser to CHROME, FIREFOX, OPERA or Internet Explorer.

The CanSat mission

Scientists and engineers have to work together to create the best satellite design. The scientific aim of your mission will directly affect how your CanSat should be engineered. Here, you will find the outline of your mission and hints to the hardware components you should include.

Primary Mission

The team must build a CanSat and program it to accomplish the primary mission to measure, after release and during descent, the following parameters:

• Air temperature
• Air pressure

And transmit it to ground via telemetry once per second.

Secondary mission

The secondary mission of the CanSat must be selected by the team. Teams can take ideas from real satellite missions or collect scientific data for a specific project, make a technology demonstration for a student-designed component, or any other mission that would fit inside the CanSat and show its capabilities. Teams are invited to take inspiration from ESA missions for designing their own secondary missions.

Some example secondary missions:

When coming up with your mission concept and hardware components, think if there is additional data you would like to retrieve and analyse, e.g.

• Acceleration
• GPS location
• Radiation levels

It can be very important for the scientists and engineers to recover their payload, therefore a targeted landing is sometimes necessary. Your CANSat design could include advanced telemetry/telecommand to help navigate a targeted landing. Alternatively your CANSat could incorporate a bespoke parachute or airbag.

Your CANSat can simulate an exploration flight to a new planet, taking measurements on the ground after landing. You should define your exploration mission and identify the parameters necessary to accomplish it (e.g. pressure, temperature, samples of the terrain, humidity, etc.). This may require additional sensors to be included into your CANSat design.


The CANSat casing design is a great way to add some artistic flare. However, all the amazing science is happening using the technology inside. Your CANSat design should show what sensors, electronics and communication hardware that you will use. There are a variety of Consumer-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware available, therefore, you should design your CANSat with your specific components in mind.

Analogue sensors, as represented here, output a voltage which needs to be converted to a digital signal in order for data to be read. The Raspberry Pi requires an Analogue-to-Digital Converter (ADC) whereas the Arduino has one built in. The benefit of the analogue sensor is that it will continuously measure the variable

Single sensor boards use a digital communications protocol which connect to your microcontroller or microprocessor. The communication protocols can use I2C (2 wires) or SPI (3 wires). Make sure that your CANSat design reflects the correct number of wires depending on the protocol you have chosen.

Using a microcontroller tends to be lighter and allow higher time resolution of data collection than a microprocessor. It requires a power source and an input to run. The most common microcontroller used is an Aruduino.

The microprocessor is an on-board computer, and unlike the microcontroller, only requires a power source to run. The most common and affordable microprocessor is the Raspberry Pi.

You will use two serial ports, one on ground and one in your CANSat. The data will be transmitted through the antenna from the serial port on your CANSat to the one on ground. The type of antenna you use will depend on the fundamental parameters and characteristics you want your antenna to have.*

The UBEC is a device used to provide the correct voltage to your board. It is most commonly used for microprocessors such as the Raspberry Pi which requires 5V, therefore you can use a 9V battery, and through the UBEC, are able to power the Raspberry Pi.

Microcontrollers such as the Arduino are able to use the input jack to connect your 9V power supply. It is also possible to use the GPIO pins to connect your power supply.

You can find more information about what components to use here