Xinlin Li, University of Colorado

Topic: "The Best is yet to come: our CubeSat is to be Launched in August"  (Video)

Abstract: The Colorado Student Space Weather Experiment (CSSWE) is a 3-unit (10cmx10cmx30cm) CubeSat mission funded by the National Science Foundation, scheduled for launch into a low-Earth, polar orbit in August 2012 as a secondary payload under NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program. The science objectives of CSSWE are to investigate the relationship of the location, magnitude, and frequency of solar flares to the timing, duration, and energy spectrum of solar energetic particles (SEP) reaching Earth, and to determine the precipitation loss and the evolution of the energy spectrum of radiation belt electrons.

CSSWE contains a single science payload, the Relativistic Electron and Proton Telescope integrated little experiment (REPTile). REPTile is a miniaturization of the Relativistic Electron and Proton Telescope (REPT) built at LASP for the NASA/Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission, which consists of two identical spacecraft scheduled to launch after August 15, 2012 that will go through the heart of the radiation belts in a low inclination orbit. REPTile is designed to measure the directional differential flux of protons ranging from 10 to 40 megaelectron volts and electrons from 0.5 to 3 megaelectron volts. Such different flux measurements have their significant science values, but making clean measurements under the mass and power limit of a CubeSat is challenging.

The CSSWE is an ideal class project, providing training for the next generation of engineers and scientists over the full life-cycle of a satellite project. More than 60 graduate and undergraduate students from different majors including aerospace, mechanical, electrical, computer engineering, astronomy and planetary sciences have helped to design the mission and build all its subsystems. A unique feature of the class is that engineers and scientists from LASP mentor the students. This project also exemplifies the value of pico-satellite missions in providing important scientific measurements complimentary to other larger missions for a fraction of the time and money. Science data will be publicly available to the community and analyzed by Ph.D. graduate students under the supervision of Prof. Li, the mission’s principle investigator.