CubeSat to Study Solar Particles Set for EM-1 Launch

CuSPP+ (Credit: SwRI)
CuSPP+ (Credit: SwRI)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) —  Another CubeSat mission involving significant contributions from Goddard scientists has won a berth on NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in 2018. The pint-size spacecraft will be one of the first to venture into interplanetary space.

NASA chose the CubeSat Mission to Study Solar Particles over the Earth’s Poles Enhancement (CuSPP+) to study the sources and acceleration mechanisms of solar and interplanetary particles near Earth’s orbit. Led by the San Antonio, Texas-based Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), the six-unit (6U) CubeSat will fly three miniaturized instruments, including the Goddard-developed Miniaturized Electron and Proton Telescope (MERiT).

MERiT is a modification of a similar sensor that is now being built for the Compact Radiation Belt Explorer (CeREs) mission, a three-unit (3U) CubeSat mission slated to fly in 2016. Goddard also had been working with SwRI on another 3U CubeSat, called CuSPP.

“For the EM-1 opportunity, we just proposed an increment to CuSPP to make it interplanetary, thus CuSPP+,” said Goddard Lead Co-Investigator Eric Christian, who is working with co-investigators Shri Kanekal and Nikolaos Paschalidis on the instrument.

CuSPP+ joins the Lunar IceCube as one of 12 payloads to deploy during EM-1, the first test flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, a 38-story launch vehicle. While Lunar IceCube will gather data from a highly elliptical lunar orbit, CuSPP+ will study charged-particle dynamics in interplanetary space.

  • Aerospike

    I find it fascinating, that we are currently witnessing a transition in the satellite and space probe realm that seems similar to the IT transition from mainframes to small (personal) computers.

    First cubesats appeared as little more than educational tools (like small computers did many years ago) and then, as the capabilities of miniaturized components increased, they suddenly start doing things that previously only big satellites could do.

    Previously a team of researchers that had an interest in a location or a phenomenon had to compete for an instrument slot on a bigger mission and all kinds of compromises had to be made to accommodate various conflicting science interests. Now we seem to have (almost) reached the point where they just launch their instrument on a cubesat and go where they want, when they want and don’t have to worry about interference from/with other instruments.

    I think Solar System exploration will “explode” in the coming years.

    Oh and all those smallsat launcher companies? Rocketlabs, Firefly Space Systems, etc.? Whoever manages to offer their product first and fly reliably, will make a fortune.