The Challenge:

  • Optical observations of resident space objects (RSOs) are typically conducted by leveraging ground and space-based telescopes as well as all-sky imagers
  • Most observations are unresolved images – creating difficultly in determining RSO behavior such as pose estimation and health and de-conflicting closely-spaced objects
  • Modelling and simulation (M&S) environments require validation and verification (V&V) to assert their usefulness à RSO dimensions and optical properties are not publicly available
  • Algorithm development and atmospheric/orbital science would benefit from a calibrated optical target in orbit

Project Overview:

  • Design and build a 12U CubeSat with optically calibrated panels for launch to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).
  • Support the verification and validation of GTRI and government owned modeling and simulation environments.
  • Collect multi-spectral data from Georgia Tech and government owned optical sensors such as OmniSSA and GT-SORT.
  • Develop algorithims for pose determination, light curve inversion, and RSO identification and low-light detection and tracking.

Project Milestones:

  • Complete: Initial modeling and simulation of OrCa light curves based on CAD model
  • Complete: Sponsor approved design (27 Dec 2019)
  • Complete: CubeSat assembly complete (10 Jan 2020)
  • Complete: CubeSat testing & encapsulation (17 Jan 2020)
  • Complete: OrCa launch (16 Mar 2020)
  • Future: OrCa observations and data analysis


OrCa was launched on board of ULA Atlas V rocket and placed into a highly elliptical geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).

Craft Overview:

ORCA is a 2 x 3 12U CubeSat. The CubeSat is solar-powered, and contains both solar cells and batteries.

Sources and Additional Information:

  1. https://www.ae.gatech.edu/news/2020/03/all-eyes-cape-canaveral-latest-ae-cubesat-launch-march-26
Full NameThe Orbital Calibration Mission
StatusIn Orbit
Launch DateMarch 2020
Principal InvestigatorsBrian GunterChris Valenta
Downlink Frequency