CSU Côte d’Azur, a Student Space Center in Côte d’Azur

- F. Millour -

Students building a satellite? Yes we can!

working session on Nice Cube with two students of the CSU
working session on Nice Cube with two students of the CSU Working session on Nice Cube with two students of the CSU.

Academy 3 highlight

This project combines research and training in Space observation. It aims to make students of different levels build a nanosatellite to observe the Earth from the Space. It gathers a consortium of 6 laboratories from Université Côte d’Azur, a private company and 4 academic training programs.

The project

More than 60 years ago, the space race started with the launch of the Sputnik satellite, which beamed its radio messages from Space to Earth. Since that pioneering epoch, the space domain has slowly shifted from military to institutional actors, and more recently from institutional to private actors. This shift, usually called the “New Space era”, is accompanied by standardization, miniaturization, and a decrease of the cost of access to space. The present time offers more opportunities than ever, especially for universities, to train students in the aerospace context and its associated techniques.

In that framework, we have launched the CSU project in 2017. Its objectives are two-fold. A first goal is to design a nanosatellite of “CubeSat” format, called “Nice Cube”, at Université Côte d’Azur, to monitor and hence better understand the perturbations that affect optical links between satellites and ground stations. Those perturbations (atmospheric turbulence, aerosols, etc.) can indeed dramatically affect communication systems in the optical domain. A second specification of this project is that this new Nice Cube nanosatellite is entirely built by students, in order to train them to the New Space era technologies. Over the first two years of the project, 25 students of master level and various nationalities have already been involved in the Nice Cube satellite design. The construction of the instrument is progressing satisfactorily. As a matter of fact, Nice Cube is already at the end of “phase 0”, meaning that its dimensioning and agenda of forthcoming missions are well achieved. The nanosatellite will eventually host an optical communication payload that will allow the measurement of atmospheric perturbations. Meanwhile, we have also made progress on designing two associated ground stations, one operating in radio waves, and the other in optical.

Scaled model of the Nice Cube nanosatellite
Scaled model of the Nice Cube nanosatellite Scaled model of the Nice Cube nanosatellite

The +

The CSU project builds a strong link between academic and private actors on the one hand, and graduate students on the other hand. The proposed training is innovative and unique on the international scene. The instrumental and research objectives are of great interest for the international community. The CSU project thus strengthens the expertise and visibility of Université Côte d’Azur in the domain of aerospace and access to space.

What’s next?

The CSU project has fostered new collaborations within UCA, which we plan to continue strengthening and enlarging. As a matter of fact, we are in the process of developing a new collaboration with Thales Alenia Space to work on novel payloads for atmospheric characterization that will be integrated to a new nanosatellite in CubeSat format.

Project information

Scientific domain



Space Applications

Key words
Master’s Student Training
Total budget
The total budget of the satellite is close to 320 k€.

6,4 k€ from Academy 2 and
50 k€ from Academy 3, mainly in the setup of the CSU and students’ stipends.
International collaboration
We participated in the 2019 France-Korea forum in Seoul, where we presented the activities of the CSU to Korean universities and companies. Several potential collaborations were identified.
We also participated in the Franco-Russian university exchanges in 2019, where collaboration opportunities were discussed.
We expect some of these potential collaborations to become effective in 2020
Partner laboratories
Lagrange, UCA
Geoazur, UCA
INRIA Sophia
Polytech Nice
École des Mines de Paris
Project members

MILLOUR Florentin (Lagrange)
BENDJOYA Philippe (Lagrange, MAUCA)
BERIO Philippe (Lagrange)
CAILLAU Jean-Baptiste (INRIA)
CARBILLET Marcel (Lagrange, MAUCA)
CAUNEAU Francois (CEMEF, Mines Paritech)
CHIAVASSA Andrea (Lagrange)
DAUVIGNAC Jean-Yves (LEAT, Polytech Nice-Sophia Antipolis)
DENEIRE Luc (I3S, Polytech Nice-Sophia Antipolis)
ESCARRAT Laurent (Sophia Conseil)
EXERTIER Pierre (Geoazur)
GOURBESVILLE Philippe (I3S, Polytech Nice-Sophia Antipolis)

LAGARDE Stéphane (Lagrange)
LANZ Thierry (OCA)
MADY Franck (LPMC)
MARTINACHE Frantz (Lagrange)
MARY David (Lagrange, MAUCA)
MEMIN Anthony (Geoazur)
METRIS Gilles (Geoazur)
MICHEL Patrick (Lagrange)
OTTOGALLI Sébastien (Lagrange)
POMET Jean-Baptiste (INRIA)
ROLLAND Lucie (Geoazur)
SOULAIN Anthony (Lagrange)
STEE Philippe (Lagrange)

Students inolved:

Students in 2018-2019

  • Internships: M1 / M2 / PFE / engineering school course-break
    • STEE Valentin (PFE 5A ENSGI)
    • EDME Florian (M2 Master MAUCA)
    • COUTAREL Elise (4A ESTACA)
    • LE GUERN Lancelot (4A IPSA)
    • ABAJIAN Pavel (M2 Master Physics de Nice)
    • ZHANG Jingwen (PFE 5A Polytech Nice Sophia Antipolis)
  • Apprenticeship
    • Clément Autreau (Apprentice 1st year engineering and technology Aix en Provence)
  • PhD
    • ZEDEK Florian (1st year of PhD)
  • Automation of ground radio station (M1 Polytech)
  • Radio receiving system (M1 Polytech)
    • ASENSIO Alan
    • STIEGLER Thomas
    • ROODSARI Maryam
    • MUNAIRABI Edhah

Students in 2017-2018

portrait Florentin Millour
portrait Florentin Millour


Project valorization

Conferences & communication:

  • The CSU project is hosted in a website where we post news and milestones of the project https://nanosat.univ-cotedazur.fr . These news are relayed via our twitter account https://twitter.com/uca3_sat
  • We have published a proceeding presenting the bare concept of the mission during the « complex days » conference in 2018, https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2018arXiv180809848M/abstract
logos partenaires CSUCA 1
logos partenaires CSUCA 1

logos partenaires CSUCA 2
logos partenaires CSUCA 2