MANTIS (Mission and Agile Nanosatellite for Terrestrial Imagery Services)
Expected to launch in late 2023, Mission and Agile Nanosatellite for Terrestrial Imagery Services (MANTIS) is a joint imaging nanosatellite constellation mission led by three companies: Open Cosmos will design and manufacture the satellite, Satlantis will build the high spatial resolution camera, and Terrabotics will analyse the data for customer needs. The satellites will provide statistical reports for the energy and mining sector to address project challenges.
|Agency||ESA, UKSA, Open Cosmos, Satlantis, Terrabotics|
|Launch date||Late 2023|
MANTIS will carry an integrated Standard Imager for Microsatellites (iSIM), a high-resolution, multi-spectral imager, who’s standardised nature allows for cheaper payloads and shorter construction times. The system relies on the integration of four features: a diffraction-limited optical design of a binocular telescope, each consisting of just three optical elements with all spherical surfaces; a high precision, quasi-athermal, robust and light alloy structure supplemented with carbon fibre rods; a set of COTS 2D CMOS detector units, rugged to withstand vibration, thermal and radiation effects; and a very high-performance, reconfigurable, on-board image processor.
iSIM has a spatial resolution of approximately 2 m for visible spectral bands and approximately 2.5 m for the near-infrared spectral band. There are four spectral bands, blue (459-525 nm), green (541-577 nm), red (650-680 nm), and near infrared (780-886 nm). MANTIS will have a pointing accuracy of 60 arcseconds, and a swath width of 13 km. MANTIS will follow a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 km with a Local Time of Descending Node at 1030 hours.
Space and Hardware Components
MANTIS will have a mass capacity of 10 kg and a volume capacity of 8U. The average power will be approximately 15 W. Imagery will be transmitted in X-band RF downlink at a rate of 150 Mbit/s to ground stations, while the spacecraft will be monitored in S-band with a data rate of 1 Mbit/s. The batteries on board will have a capacity of 90 Whr.
The MANTIS project, funded under the UK Space Agency contribution to the ESA InCubed program, brings together the expertise of three space companies. British company Open Cosmos will provide the design, manufacturing, testing, launch and operation of the mission based on a new generation 12U spacecraft platform, Spanish company Satlantis will build the high spatial resolution camera, while Terrabotics from the UK will use its novel data analysis to satisfy the needs of their energy and mining customers.
Open Cosmos of Harwell, UK, envisions the first MANTIS satellite to be the first of an aggregated constellation operated by Open Cosmos where customers will have access to diverse types and volumes of information depending on the number of satellites contributed to the constellation. This will enable organisations of all sizes and sectors to not only leverage their own space infrastructure (developed and managed by Open Cosmos) but also benefit from additional datasets and services from satellites that Open Cosmos manages and operates for others. MANTIS will be a demonstration mission to jointly develop, build, launch and operate an innovative nanosatellite platform, carrying a high resolution Earth observation camera.
This first MANTIS satellite is particularly suitable for applications in the energy and mining sector. Companies in these sectors are increasingly carrying out more complex and expensive projects in search of resources, where up to 60% can be found in more remote, hostile and hazardous regions around the world. In addition, two thirds of major projects fail (i.e. over-budget or delayed) due to unforeseen risks and hazards as a result of inadequate upfront due diligence, planning and prior knowledge of the challenging operating environments. Actionable intelligence is of key importance and highly needed to be able to increase safety, be able to better plan and mitigate the risks of projects run by these industries. 2)
MANTIS will address these challenges with periodic statistics reports on activity in the regions of interest, computed through the latest data processing and machine learning techniques on top of other data sets, such as Copernicus. The satellite will obtain images to feed these data processing algorithms in a revisit pattern that is optimised for specific areas of interest. The high resolution of these images will be complementary to lower resolution data that is already available from the Copernicus program.
In a press briefing on December 9, 2019, leaders of the involved organisations made the following comments: 3)
- Josef Aschbacher, Director of ESA’s Earth Observation Programs: “MANTIS is an example of how the European New Space sector supported by the ESA Investing in Industrial Innovation (InCubed) program can leverage world class European competences along the entire Earth Observation value chain, creating value in the fast-growing Earth Observation commercial sector designed to support specific business verticals.”
- Beth Greenaway, Head of Earth Observation for the UK Space Agency: “Observations of the Earth from space are central to modern day life in helping us to monitor climate change, map our environment, forecast the weather and now – finding new resources. The UK is a world leader in the rapidly growing Earth Observation sector and the high number of applications for this program is a testament to that. I look forward to discussing future plans at the forthcoming European Space Agency Council of Ministers in November, where we will be reaffirming our ESA membership.”
- Rafel Jordá Siquier, founder and CEO of Open Cosmos: “Open Cosmos is very excited to work on this next generation Earth Observation satellite. This project shows that bringing together the best specialists in their fields, in this case Open Cosmos, Satlantis and Terrabotics, leads to great technical performance improvements of Earth Observation platforms, while at the same time significantly reducing time to orbit, complexity and cost of these systems.”
- Gareth Morgan, CEO of Terrabotics: “We are thrilled to be a part of the MANTIS mission. It is very exciting for us to have the opportunity to collaborate with the entire consortium on the development of an innovative, vertically integrated Earth Observation solution for application to the natural resources industry.”
- Juan Tomás Hernani, CEO of Satlantis: “MANTIS is a major breakthrough to provide new CubeSats with very high resolution native multispectral Earth Observation technology, delivering fast projects that will empower customers with real time performance. Ecosystems proposals like Satlantis/Open Cosmos/Terrabotics is the new way that the sector responds to the GeoInformation needs of industry.”
MANTIS is a demonstration mission to develop, build, launch and operate an innovative nanosatellite, and provide low-latency and targeted imagery tailored to the data needs of the oil and gas sector. Oil and gas resources are found in remote, hostile, and hazardous regions around the world, with energy companies increasingly taking on more complex and expensive projects to locate and produce these resources. Resources are often difficult to access politically, economically and physically. As a result, there is an increasing need to access affordable market data and analysis tools. The globally dispersed location and number of global oil and gas assets make it difficult for ongoing monitoring and mapping of oil and gas supply through independent sources. Additionally, the global oil and gas supply chain is not accurately or frequently monitored to provide data to other stakeholders in the energy market including regulators, financial services, and economists to name a few. The current space imagery market offering is not tailored to specific industry use cases within the oil and gas sector, and instead are typically sized and tailored to serve the requirements of other sectors such as Military and Defense. 2)
The MANTIS mission aims to provide a vertically integrated remote sensing solution built specifically to address these specific needs of the oil and gas sector. MANTIS brings together the expertise of three space companies (Figure 1):
• Open Cosmos Ltd (Harwell, UK) will be providing a new generation 12U spacecraft platform. As prime contractor, Open Cosmos is responsible for the end-to-end space mission service (covering the Space, Launch, Ground and User segments of the mission). In order to enable the delivery of services across these segments, Open Cosmos will be leveraging its strategic partnerships with key players in the industry. A data processing chain managed by Open Cosmos on-ground will enable processing the raw satellite imagery up to Level 1C.
• Satlantis Microsats SL (Bilbao, Spain) will provide a high-resolution imaging payload (iSIM90-12U). The payload consists of a compact binocular telescope specifically designed to fit within a volume of 8U. The design relies on iSIM technology, comprised by the integration of four key technologies: a binocular diffraction-limited optical system working at visible and near-infrared wavelengths; a high precision, robust and light structure; a set of innovative COTS detectors with 2D CMOS sensors; and a high-performance and reconfigurable on-board processing unit with super-resolution algorithms implemented. It will provide a fully processed image data set up to Level 1B.
• Terrabotics (London, UK), a satellite data analytics company in the natural resources sector with a specific focus on the oil & gas industry, will be the primary client of the MANTIS mission. It derived the information requirements necessary for the MANTIS mission to address specific use cases in the oil & gas sector. After receiving the Level 1C data from Open Cosmos, Terrabotics will apply their proprietary change detection and object recognition algorithms to this imagery in order to carry out further processing and analysis of data to create added-value products (Level 2+) that will feed their PADS™ Premium service. As part of this process, Terrabotics will be consolidating the MANTIS data with lower resolution data available from third party data sets (e.g. from ESA’s Copernicus program).
Differentiating attributes of the MANTIS mission will be an acquisition plan designed specifically around oil and gas provinces, a new economic model to increase affordability, and a greatly simplified End User Licence Agreement (EULA) to encourage use. While sensor data will be available to purchase from MANTIS, the primary product will be an information service provided by Terrabotics, which will provide decision-ready insights to end-users, greatly reducing the processing and analysis overhead associated with Earth observation. Through the use of the satellite imagery provided by the MANTIS mission, Terrabotics is seeking to offer a “Premium Tier” of their existing analytical solutions and value-add products, in order to market this product to existing and future customers. In this way Terrabotics is seeking to build on their flagship PADS™ product and further address specific use cases demanded by end-users in the oil & gas sector.
The MANTIS mission is composed of the Space, Ground, User and Launch segments. The mission architecture is depicted in Figure 3, including the individual elements that comprise each segment. The 12U spacecraft platform contained within the Space Segment is described below. The Ground Segment is responsible for receiving and processing the satellite imagery up to Level 1C, while the User Segment is responsible for the creation and distribution of added-value products (Level 2+). OpenApp, Open Cosmos’s proprietary mission control software, is currently undergoing qualification in support of another Open Cosmos mission and will complete qualification in 2020.
Regarding the selection of the satellite orbit, the primary constraint is maximising the potential image quality that can be provided by the payload. This lies within achieving the required spatial resolution, and the trade-off between maximising the Signal-To-Noise ratio of an imaged scene, and minimising the risk of non-uniform illumination (eg. sun-glinting). Secondary constraints include maximising the fraction of global coverage and reducing the required design complexity.
The Areas of Interest (AOIs) targeted by the mission have been defined considering the regions of highest activity in the natural resources sector. Short term variations in market demands are also satisfied by autonomous tasking based on inputs from the end user on new Points of Interest (POIs). End users will be able to submit requests for tasking the satellite by submitting these to Open Cosmos’s Mission Operations Centre. These requests will inform the definition of the image acquisition plan. 1)
The Open Cosmos satellite is a modular platform that can meet the requirements of a variety of missions. This modularity is achieved by standardisation of interfaces between subsystems and within them as well. This enables Open Cosmos to have different options to cater for the mission needs. Interface boards allow the addition of third-party subsystems that do not follow the Open Cosmos interfaces enabling the increase in capabilities of the platform or tailoring to specific missions. The platform has been designed for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and for any inclination, and is compatible with a wide variety of commercial launch vehicles. The key characteristics of the MANTIS 12U platform are summarised in Table 1, with a visualisation of the platform shown in Figure 4.
Payload mass capacity
Payload volume capacity
Payload orbit average power
S-band: 1 Mbit/s; X-band: 150 Mbit/s
Pointing accuracy, APE (Absolute Pointing Error)
Pointing stability, RPE (Relative Pointing Error)
A launch of the MANTIS mission is expected in late 2023. The selected orbit will be sun-synchronous, at an altitude of 500 km, and a Local Time of Descending Node at 1030 hours.
- April 2020 - The MANTIS mission has successfully completed its Preliminary Design Review (PDR) milestone. The Consortium partners are executing activities as part of the critical design phase for the mission. This includes the selection of third party products and services, and executing early engineering integration activities. 2)
- September 11, 2019 - The MANTIS contract was signed at ESA’s ESRIN facility near Rome, Italy. 4)
iSIM (integrated Standard Imager for Microsatellites)
iSIM is a state-of-the-art, high-resolution, multi-spectral, agile optical imager developed by Satlantis for the new generation of EO microsatellite constellations. The iSIM design combines class leading performance, via the utilisation of cutting-edge technologies, standardised manufacturing procedures, significantly reduced build times and a new level of affordability. This combination approach will provide industries and government agencies with the ability to acquire and access unparalleled high-resolution data in real-time. Satlantis has currently developed two versions of this camera: iSIM170, designed for the 50-100 kg microsatellite platforms, and iSIM90 for the 12U-16U CubeSat platforms.
iSIM90-12U uses a modified Maksutov-Cassegrain optical design with a focal length of 775 mm and an effective aperture diameter of 77.5 mm. The imager is designed to provide diffraction-limited images between 450 and 1000 nm over the entire 1.8° FOV in visible (VIS) and near infrared (NIR) spectral bands, with a spatial resolution of approximately 2 m for VIS and 2.5 m for NIR, and a 13 km swath (at the proposed altitude of 500 km). The system relies on the technological integration of four key elements:
• A diffraction-limited optical design of a binocular telescope, each consisting of just three optical elements with all spherical surfaces (Figure 5).
• A high precision, quasi-athermal, robust and light alloy structure supplemented with carbon fibre rods (Figure 6).
• A set of COTS 2D CMOS detector units, rugged to withstand vibration, thermal and radiation effects (Figure 7).
• A very high-performance, reconfigurable, on-board image processor (Figure 8).
4 (VIS, NIR)
GSD at 500 km altitude (raw image)
GSD at 500 km (post-processed image including
degradation due to platform and orbital effects)
VIS: 2.5 m
NIR: 3.0 m
SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio)
SNR=55 per resolution element for targets such as:
Vegetation, with minimum solar elevation angle of 55°
Sand, with minimum solar elevation angle of 34°
Volume of opto-mechanical subsystem
6U (including shared volume between secondary structures)
Volume of ECS (Environmental Control Subsystem)
Peak power (Acquiring & Heating)
Operational temperatures (*)
Opto-Mechanics: +19.5 to +26.5°C
ECS: -30 to +70°C; Detectors: -5 to +40°C
Opto-Mechanics: -20 to +40°C
ECS: -40 to +85°C; Detectors: -30 to +70°C
Spectral range (nm)
Band 1 (Blue)
459 - 525
Band 2 (Green)
541 - 577
Band 3 (Red)
650 - 680
Band 4 (Infrared)
780 - 886
1) Rafael Guzmán, Ricardo López, Eider Ocerin, Stuart Davis, Juan Tomás Hernani, Rob Brennan-Craddock, Nick Kelleman, Massimiliano Pastena, Nicola Melega & Flavio Mariani, ”A Compact Multispectral Imager for the MANTIS Mission 12U CubeSat,” Proceedings of SPIE, Vol. 11505, CubeSats and SmallSats for Remote Sensing IV; 1150507, 22 August 2020,https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343775998_A_compact_multispectral_imager_for_the_MANTIS_mission_12U_CubeSat
2) “MANTIS | InCubed.” InCubed, https://incubed.esa.int/portfolio/mantis/
3) “Open Cosmos announces development of 'MANTIS' Earth Observation satellite.” Geospatial World, 12 September 2019, https://www.geospatialworld.net/news/open-cosmos-mantis-earth-observation-satellite/.
4) “New UK-led satellite will identify natural resources from space.” GOV.UK, 11 September 2019, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-uk-led-satellite-will-identify-natural-resources-from-space.
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).