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The next step
12/11/2015 - 09:14

It has been a while since you’ve all heard from us, but we have been working hard! The last months we have been busy behind the scenes producing the billboard and planning the launch.

As you all know, our original plan was to launch the billboard on board of the Belgian SIMBA CubeSat that is being developed at our university in Leuven, Belgium. Although SpaceBillboard will still support this satellite, our plans have changed due to unforeseen complications and we will not launch the billboard on board of SIMBA.

As an alternative to the SIMBA CubeSat we have opted to launch the billboard on board of not one, but two different CubeSats. This way, we can launch SpaceBillboard with more certainty. These two satellites are the Ursa Maior of the university of La Sapienza in Rome (Italy) and the SNUSAT-1 of the university of Seoul (South Korea). The mission of Ursa Maior is testing a new propulsion system and SNUSAT-1 will test a new software system that aims to make CubeSats more resilient to failures. Both satellites have a strong educational value and are part of the European project QB50.

The billboard itself is engraved in anodized aluminium (see below). Because of its black surface and white core, this material allows to engrave detailed pictures and text in its surface. The technique of engraving also avoids detrimental effects on the satellite in vacuum, ink for example would “outgas” and would cause problems with lenses and solar panels. In addition, this technique gives our billboard a spacey touch :-)

The pictures of the billboard below are of the Ursa Maior CubeSat. This CubeSat will carry the billboard on the inside on top of the other instruments (the pictures show the satellite without its solar panels). The SNUSAT-1 will carry the billboard on the outside. The integration with this satellite is scheduled for the start of 2016.

The launch of both satellites is scheduled for mid 2016. The satellites will first be launched from Earth to the International Space Station (ISS). Afterwards a robot arm will launch the CubeSats from the ISS into space. This way, we will actually have two spectacular launches. We hope for nice footage :-)

We are very pleased with this coming launch and are proud of the support of our sponsors! Thanks to all of them, we are on the road to again pushing space science one step further!

CubeSat developments at KU Leuven (Part 2)
17/05/2015 - 18:39

In a previous blog post, we explained that we are developing an attitude determination and control system. This is the system that controls the orientation of the CubeSat, so that it's payload - such as a camera e.g. - can be pointed to a point of interest. The special thing about our system is that it will increase the accuracy and agility with which the orientation can typically be controlled. Let us tell you how we do that.

To point your CubeSat, you need to be able to do two main things:
- Find out what the current orientation of the CubeSat is. (Determination)
- Change the orientation of the CubeSat. (Control)

Determining the orientation of the CubeSat can be done using a wide variety of sensors. These all measure 'something' and try to determine the attitude of the spacecraft using that information. The most intuitive one might be a magnetometer. This sensor measures the magnetic field that surrounds the Earth and this way tells us what the direction of that field is. In essence, this is very simple to a device we all know: a compass. A second sensor, called the sun sensor, is sensitive to light and gives us the direction towards the sun. Because we have models that tell us where the sun is located at specific times in space, we can get a second direction out of this information. These are the typical sensors that are used in a CubeSat. They consume little power, are simple and cheap.

We add a very powerful sensor to this combination: the Star Tracker. This is a camera that takes a picture of the stars and has algorithms on board to identify those stars. Using the knowledge of the star positions, we can then very accurately determine the orientation of the CubeSat. This sensor is more complex and expensive, but it can increase the accuracy of the spacecraft attitude determination with a factor of 10! At KU Leuven, we have developed new and efficient algorithms which make the star tracker less complex and expensive, while keeping that great accuracy!

Controlling the orientation of the CubeSat is typically done using magnetorquers. These are magnets that can be turned on or off. By actuating them in the right sequence and on the correct times, these magnets can interact with the magnetic field of the Earth to change the orientation. This kind of control does not give a lot of flexibility and does not let you change your orientation accurately or with high agility.

That is why we add three actuators which do offer that agility and accuracy. We have developed reaction wheels that can control the attitude of the spacecraft. These reaction wheels contain a flywheel that can be rotated using an electric motor. When one of the wheels is spun up, the satellite starts spinning the other direction. This is a principle called conservation of angular momentum. With three wheels, the CubeSat attitude can be controlled in three axis.

The combination of these actuators and sensors will allow us to control the attitude of the spacecraft with high accuracy and agility. This will lead to better scientific measurements! CubeSats will from then on also be able to support more demanding missions!

CubeSat developments at KU Leuven
08/05/2015 - 10:38

SpaceBillboard is a project set up by researchers of the KU Leuven university. With the revenue of this project, we will fund the CubeSat research at our university. But what exactly is this research about?

At KU Leuven, the departments of Mechanics and Astronomy are working together on the system that rotates the satellite in the right orientation, called the attitude of the CubeSat. We want to be able to control the orientation of the spacecraft, because we want to point our payload (e.g. a camera) in the right direction.

Not only do we want to control the orientation, we want to control it with high accuracy and stability. In essence, the people of Astronomy want to take pictures from objects that do not emit that much light: distant stars, galaxies, etc. Maybe you have already taken pictures at night yourself. To be able to see anything, you need to make the shutter time longer. Unless you have a very steady hand, you have probably seen that light sources (e.g. a lamp in the photo) create paths of light because you moved during the exposure time. For images taken on board of a satellite, the same effect holds. If the satellite jitters too much, the image will not be of high quality.

That is why we decided to make an attitude determination and control system that controls the orientation of the CubeSat with high accuracy, stability and agility. How exactly we do that will be explained in the next blog post :-).

Praise good causes into the skies
28/04/2015 - 10:22

With Earth Day coming up, we wanted to use our privilege (being able to literally send messages around the world) to help the many non-profit organizations that make the world a better place. We set up a form where people could nominate a good cause and tell them why they appreciate their work. We are the first to admit that the concept sounds very simple, but the result was really cool!

People who work for a non-profit organization put a tremendous amount of energy and devotion into their work and receiving these messages of approval really invigorates them and gives them a boost to keep doing the good work! Writing a message of support might seem less tangible than donating time or money, but we learned from the people working for a non-profit organization that they love the initiative.

Our goal with SpaceBillboard is to show that space research can improve our lives on Earth. With Earth Day coming up, we wanted to set up an action to support other non-profit organizations that make the world a better place. 

More than 100 non-profit organizations have been nominated and a couple of them even started a campaign to rally people for their good cause. We are happy to have seen so many enthusiastic responses and are impressed to see the incredible amount of organizations and people that work hard each day to make the world a better place.

On Earth Day, we selected three of the nominated non-profit organizations and we will send the messages of those organizations into space. Once in orbit, they will go around the world every 90 minutes and will eventually pass over every place on Earth. We would like to congratulate Emergency, Zorgcentrum Maria Ter Engelen and Whizzkids United with being selected. But more importantly, we would like to congratulate all organizations with the magnificent work that they do every day!

You can still nominate a good cause you like. It will not longer be eligible to be on the billboard, but it can still mean a lot to the people who work hard for the non-profit organization you nominate.

Companies coming to the aid of scientific research
16/04/2015 - 18:59

One of the major advantages of CubeSats is that they are a lot cheaper than traditional satellites. Having said that, the development and launch of a CubeSat is still not something you can pay with the spare change in your pocket. In stead of several hundred million dollars, we are now talking about several hundred thousand dollars. This still is a considerable budget to obtain as a university.

At our university (KU Leuven), we have received scientific funding to pay for our research. We got this funding because we are developing satellite systems that push the state-of-the-art forward and broaden the range of missions that can be performed on a CubeSat. But because we really believe in the potential of these satellites, we want to go further and faster. That is why we decided to look at other ways to get funding.

Projects get funded by people and institutions who believe in the core values of the project. Our mission is to accelerate innovation. With space research, we can bring benefits to people on Earth and improve their lives. So finding sponsors for our project comes down to finding people and companies that share these same values: Innovative companies with a vision to improve our lives. And we are happy to already have found some great sponsors:

Mobile Vikings: True to the nature of vikings, this mobile provider was the first to be on SpaceBillboard. Their goal to connect people aligns perfectly with the potential of CubeSat networks to deliver global connectivity.

Electrabel & GDF Suez: As an energy supplier with a vision for the future, they are very enthusiastic to support CubeSats research that will lead to better knowledge about global warming and how to cope with it.

Microsoft: They turned room-size computers into something so small it will fit in your pocket. It’s only logical that they are part of the research that turns bus-sized satellites into something the size of a shoebox.

Kinepolis: To bring the stars closer to people on Earth, the support and experience of a cinema operator is incredibly valuable. They can really connect with the inspiring side of SpaceBillboard.

Prothetica: A dental lab with the most original uses of the Mona Lisa we have ever seen. It’s only natural for a company that is so closely linked to our shining example Leonardo Da Vinci, to support space research.

Sophos: Innovative companies always need to think one step ahead. Everyone in your industry is talking about the cloud? Well, you are going into space.

Walnuts Australia: We don’t think anyone is surprised that a company dealing in brain food is helping the next generation of researchers to get hands-on experience. It’s the most spectacular way to increase your consumer base!

Oreo: The most compelling argument against extraterrestrial life is that they haven’t come to buy Oreo cookies yet. They even look a little bit like a space ship.

Seeq: With their animations, they can get the most complex messages out there in a way that is easy to understand. That's exactly what we are trying to do: explaining our rocket science in a way that's not rocket science.

These companies share our vision to move space research forward. With their contribution, we can help fund our work and our students and get those many advantages of space research closer to people on Earth. We hope that we can convince many other companies to push innovation forward!

Supporting CubeSats is supporting the education of bright minds
21/03/2015 - 10:32

“I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.”

When studying science and technology, nothing is more true than this quote by Confucius. Getting real hands-on experience, solving new problems and tackling challenging issues is crucial to really mastering a subject.

The problem with billion dollar satellites is, well, that they cost a billion dollars. With that much money on the table, satellite developers don’t want untrained people to touch the components. You’d be lucky to get even near them. So giving hands-on experience to our aspiring space engineers has long been a difficult task.

With the lower cost of CubeSats, satellite technology comes within reach of students! The budget - which is in the range of 100.000 euro more than 1 billion - can be handled by a university. This has led to the founding of many student-based CubeSat teams. Some teams are even composed entirely of students. This way, they not only learn more about the technology, they also have to figure out how to function in an organization, lead projects and stick to deadlines. CubeSats offer the perfect preparation for their further career.

On top of being hugely useful for educational purposes, CubeSats are also an ideal means to engage students and make them enthusiastic about science and technology. The world needs scientists and engineers. Cool and adventurous research like space research is perfect to spark enthusiasm with young students.

So yes, we think that Confucius would approve of CubeSats.

CubeSats were invented by Chuck Norris, after playing a particularly hard game of Candy Crush
10/03/2015 - 10:22

While some will probably object to this explanation of the origin of CubeSats, almost everyone will agree that they have a very bright future ahead of them. 

CubeSats are small satellites that can be launched and built for a fraction of the cost of bigger satellites. And it is absolutely true that their technology is very similar to that of a smart phone. This opens up a whole new range of business opportunities and research paths. CubeSats bring space research and exploration within the reach of universities and companies. To see the huge potential, we only have to look at the numerous student-built CubeSats and at recent developments such as the investment of 1 billion dollar of Google in SpaceX (to bring internet to the masses with small satellites).

Constellations of tens of CubeSats are being launched (e.g. Planet Labs’ Dove satellites) for a cost lower than that of one conventional satellite. These constellations will bring us real-time images of Earthglobal internetimmediate forest fire detectionremoval of space debris, etc. The potential is immense.

With SpaceBillboard  three researchers of the KU Leuven university in Belgium want to give this research more visibility and funding. We will launch images and messages of companies and people into space to bring our research into the attention of a broad audience and to gather funding. We will fund student research, build ground stations, start new research paths, etc. and give space research a big boost!

Supporting CubeSats is supporting firefighters
05/03/2015 - 12:55

In many parts of the world, the hot months of summer and spring bring with them a dangerous and devastating phenomenon: wildfires. These wildfires are uncontrolled fires that can spread in forests, grass lands, bushes, etc.

In the United States alone, there are typically between 60,000 and 80,000 wildfires each year, burning between 3 and 10 million acres of land. That is between 3,500 and 12,000 New York City Central Parks worth of land, each year. These fires are not only a danger for nature, they also destroy human property, people’s homes and most dramatic of all, they often take human casualties. Very recently, in 2013, 19 elite firefighters were killed when the fire suddenly changed direction due to the wind.

To fight wildfire, fast and effective detection is a crucial factor. Wildfires can spread rapidly under the influence of high wind speeds and every minute gained in detecting a wildfire helps firefighters to tackle the threat. Using modern technology, fire detection has evolved from people sending carrier pigeons from fire lookout towers, to high-tech fire detection sensors. Aerial and satellite monitoring also offer valuable information. The problem with satellites in polar orbits however, is that they only pass over each region of the Earth for a short period, so they cannot acquire real-time data at any moment, over every location.

This is a problem we can solve with CubeSats! Because of their lower cost and development time, deploying a constellation of several CubeSats becomes economically viable and possible. With a constellation of CubeSats, wildfires could be monitored over every location of Earth at any given moment. Whether a fire is starting in the bushes of Australia or in the forests of Colorado, it can be signaled immediately. Firefighters will no longer arrive to battle a full-grown sea of flames, they will be able to fight the fire when it has just started.


A constellation of fire detection CubeSats can help save valuable acres of nature, human property and most importantly, human lives.

Of course our sponsors and us want to support firefighters.
And that’s why we support CubeSats.

ClearChannel and SpaceBillboard team up!
24/02/2015 - 08:33

We are very happy that we can announce an important big step in our SpaceBillboard project!

We will be working together with the people at ClearChannel to make SpaceBillboard a huge success! They will help us sell the squares on the billboard to innovative companies.

We noticed from the start of the project that getting in touch with the right people within a company was one of the biggest hurdles we were going to face. With little experience in this field and with an unconventional project as SpaceBillboard, it was not always easy to convince people in big companies to have a meeting with us. And that’s where ClearChannel enters the equation perfectly. They have exactly the right experience and knowledge that SpaceBillboard needed.

Together, we hope to give space research even more of the visibility it deserves and we are working hard to raise the funding that will bring so many advantages of space research to people on Earth!

Let's make it bigger
08/02/2015 - 09:34

Lots has been going on again the last week, especially with our Valentine special, but more about that later. Because we had another major milestone two weeks ago: our international press release.

So far, our media campaign had been focussed on Belgium. We already received quite some visibility in Belgian media, and it was time for us to cross the border and explore new horizons.

We thought a long time about the best way to introduce SpaceBillboard internationally. Would we do a press release or a press conference? Which media would we target? What do we say in our release?

Eventually we opted for a press release and we used media distribution services to spread it to the right contacts. For Europe and the US we used PRweb, for Asia, we went with PRNewsWire. While these services target a broad range of media, we also specifically targeted business and tech media for our press release. We wrote our press release text with the help of some very experienced people (for which our thanks!) and we made sure to add a variety of photos, quotes, etc.

This approach got SpaceBillboard covered more than 50 news websites and blogs. There were a number of tweets mentioning SpaceBillboard, including one by the European Space Agency. Something we ourselves think is pretty cool!

Besides the rather broad approach of the press distribution services, we also laser-targeted journalists of some of the biggest newspapers and tech/business blogs out there. These people are hammered with hundreds of mails each day, so the goal here was to tell our cool story as concise and engaging as possible. We were very thrilled to have both VentureBeat and Daily News devote an interesting story to SpaceBillboard!

The result of all this: more interesting contacts within the space industry, more companies interested in advertising on the billboard, more journalists who are interested in covering our story and a huge energy boost for us to keep pushing our project forward!

More news soon!

Write it in the stars
02/02/2015 - 20:03

This December, we did a Christmas special with Christmas wishes from space.

We received some very nice comments on this, so we decided to take it a step further: Valentine messages in the stars, or: 

Write it in the stars!

Similar to before, we allow you to put a message on our billboard and in addition, you receive your own personalized Valentine card to print and hand out yourself. To top it off, we asked five different designers for their unique design for the first Valentine cards in space, and we utterly love the results!

Check it all out at 

Or if you're Belgian or Dutch, check out and

Christmas Cards: a short look back
05/01/2015 - 19:41

One of the things we love about Christmas are the Christmas cards. This period of the year is perfect to reach out to the persons we love and to wish them all the best for the coming year. Christmas cards come in all different shapes and colors, and people are getting more and more creative with them.

So we thought that it would be a great idea to give people the opportunity to send a Christmas card of which the message will also go in space! Imagine getting Christmas wishes that will orbit the Earth for years to come and that will pass over every place on Earth, isn’t that the coolest Christmas card ever?

Because of a limited time frame, we set out a small campaign, got quite some nice coverage for it (/press-coverage) and most importantly: People sent some real heartwarming messages to each other. And that’s all that we could have wished for :-).

All the best for 2015 to you!
The SpaceBillboard team

Happy new year!
01/01/2015 - 20:22

The past year was an incredible one in more than one respect. In 2014, we started SpaceBillboard because we are convinced that space research is extremely valuable. We believe so, because space research brings important advantages to all people on Earth, it expands our view on the universe and our place in it, and it inspires people. We were very happy to have found sponsors for our project who share that vision. These innovative companies help us to give space research more visibility and funding, and we are very grateful to them for that.

This year, we want to go further. We want to go further in the sense that we will bring our current Belgian campaign across the border and will build an international media campaign around our project. We also want to go further in the sense that we want to fill our billboard with more messages from companies and people like you and me. We have some great actions and story lines in store for 2015 and we can’t wait to show them to you!

Happy new year!

The SpaceBillboard team

Christmas wishes from space
17/12/2014 - 21:04

It's been a while that you've heard from us, but we've made some big leaps ahead the last month! We can't tell you everything yet, more about that later :)

In the meanwhile, we do have something else to show: Christmas cards from space! We've designed an awesome and spacey Christmas card of which the message will be launched into space as well.

Did you ever want to wish someone a unique Merry Christmas? Now's your chance!

Check it out at /christmas-wishes

Sponsor portret: Electrabel and GDF Suez
28/10/2014 - 20:39

GDF SUEZ is a global energy player and an expert operator in the three key sectors of electricity, natural gas and energy services. Electrabel is part of the GDF SUEZ Group and is active in the production of electricity as well as in the selling of electricity, natural gas and energy services to retail and business customers in Belgium. Both companies are more than just energy suppliers. Amongst others, they want to play an active role in limiting carbon emissions and recognized the value of CubeSats in the race against global warming. As one of the larger employers in Belgium with 17.800 people, the Group GDF SUEZ is also committed to stimulating innovation and is also actively involved in space sector itself, amongst others on the launch site of French Guiana!

We are proud to have these companies as our current prime sponsors. Thank you for supporting space research, GDF SUEZ and Electrabel!


Our media impact in the first few days
26/10/2014 - 21:24
The past two weeks
23/10/2014 - 19:09

After working hard on SpaceBillboard for more than a year, we finally presented our project to the Belgian press on the 9th of October, now two weeks ago. Similar to the weeks just before our press launch, the past weeks have been busy ones, but also thrilling. Now, we finally have the time to write some things down, so time for a first look back :)

What to expect?

As it turns out, setting up a press conferences is a bit of a gamble, especially for a small and out-of-the-box project such as SpaceBillboard.

"How many people do you think will be present?" We asked this question several times and to different people, and the estimations kept growing smaller. Starting from "ten would be nice", we eventually stranded at "I've had press conferences without any reporters that were covered in every news paper the day after".

Then the day before our press conference, the Belgian government was set up after weeks of negotiations. This meant the press had other stuff to think about apart from some crazy guys that want to launch a billboard into space. So we didn't set our hopes too high. 

Overwhelming, at the least

However, the day itself turned out to be one overwhelming roller coaster. In total, more than fiteen people joined. Four camera crews, eight reporters and the rest photographers. We started off with a presentation and ended with a demo of some cool CubeSat technology in our lab. The lab was crammed with cameras and reporters and at its peak, three simultaneous interviews were given while photographers kept shooting pictures. We loved it :)

The result was better than we could have imagined: within days, SpaceBillboard had reached 4 TV channels, 14 news papers and 25 websites. In total, this counted up to an advertising value equivalency of €55000 for our sponsors. 

Just the beginning

As you can read, we're quite pleased with our first press coverage. But notice the word "first". We don't stop here :) Stay tuned!

First blog post
08/10/2014 - 21:29

From the first man in space, over the landings on the moon, to the International Space Station, space sparks people’s imagination. From ambitious kids who dream of being an astronaut, to romantic couples, marveling at the night’s sky, space attracts all of us. Space exploration research, although quite young, has given us great images from distant galaxies and stars, and it has shown us how beautiful our Earth is from above. It helps us to answer some of the greatest questions human beings have.

SpaceBillboard wants to push space research forward. More precisely, SpaceBillboard wants to support research on CubeSats. CubeSats are small satellites, which makes them cheap to launch. But by employing components similar to those in your smart-phone, CubeSats can be equally powerful to traditional large satellites. As a result, CubeSats enable space research at universities such as ours. And because more facilities can perform space research, space research can advance further, which brings its many advantages one giant step closer.

To fund this research, SpaceBillboard will launch the first billboard in space. This billboard will be the first in space, the fastest ever, the highest ever and the one traveling the largest distance ever. It will be a one-of-a-kind billboard.

We have already had the luck to have met some great companies that want to help make our vision become reality and we are eternally grateful to them for placing their trust in our project.

But the best news for you: there are still places left on the billboard! And if you don't want your brand on the billboard, you can place a personal message. You even receive a certificate :)

Tomorrow, on the 9th of October 2014, our project finally goes public. It is an exciting time for us and we hope you like it as well.

If you like space, follow us closely!