Earth crews are testing three small CubeSats launched with the Landsat 9 remote sensing satellite last month, preparing the small space probe for exoplanet observations and communications experiments. NASA says engineers have not made contact with another CubeSat designed for space-time research.
Four CubeSats were launched as shared cargoes with the Landsat 9 mission on September 27 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. Atlas 5 successfully deployed the Landsat 9 satellite, a joint project between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, in a polar orbit 420 miles (675 kilometers) after the launch of the Vandenberg space force base, California.
The upper stage of the Atlas 5 Centaur maneuvered at a lower altitude to release four CubeSats transported inside the dispensers into a secondary payload adapter.
The small secondary charges, two for NASA and two sponsored by the U.S. Army’s Defense Innovation Unit, were ejected from the carrier modules on the Centaur stage, according to the ULA.
One of the CubeSats, called CuPID, was built to study the interactions between solar activity and the Earth’s magnetic field, probing dynamics that affect space climate. The Cusp Plasma Imaging Detector, or CuPID, carries instruments to measure the X-rays emitted when the plasma of the solar wind collides with the neutral atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere.
NASA spokeswoman Denise Hill said Thursday that ground crews were still trying to make contact with CuPID. These attempts take longer than expected, Hill said, but officials do not give up. They keep trying to acquire CubeSat signals.
CuPID, based on a 6U CubeSat platform, was developed by students and researchers at Boston University. Team members there did not respond to several requests for updates on the small satellite.
The spacecraft is the size of a toaster oven and houses the first soft X-ray camera with wide field of view flying in orbit. CuPID data were to complement research into larger NASA missions, such as the Multiscale Magnetosphere Mission, by observing how the Earth’s magnetosphere responds to the sun’s inputs.
Interactions between solar activity and the Earth’s magnetosphere drive space climate, which can disrupt communications, electrical networks, and satellite operations.
Another CubeSAT, backed by NASA, known as CUTE, carries a tiny telescope to look at the atmospheres of the planets outside our solar system. Officials wrote on the mission’s website that ground crews successfully established a communication link with the CUTE spacecraft after launch.
Colorado’s ultraviolet transit experiment is funded by NASA’s astrophysics division. The small probe will observe transits of giant planets in front of other host stars. These planets, called “hot Jupiters,” orbit near their stars, where their atmospheres overheat, which can allow gas molecules to escape into space, according to NASA.
CUTE will observe at least ten of the giant planets crossing in front of their stars, observing five to ten transits per planet in about seven months, NASA said.
The satellite will measure how the star’s ultraviolet light changes as it passes through the planet’s atmosphere.
“Key elements of the planet’s atmosphere, such as magnesium and iron, absorb nearby ultraviolet light, providing clear evidence of its presence,” NASA said in a press release. “By repeatedly measuring these atmospheric elements for the planets themselves, CUTE will help us understand how quickly these planets lose their atmosphere and how that changes over time.”
CUTE “is seeing an important process that we are thinking about here the plot also matters system, that is, the loss of an atmosphere, “said Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s scientific mission.” Remember, Mars used to be much thicker. atmosphere around the planet “.
The results of missions like CUTE could help scientists understand planetary evolution, particularly how planets maintain conditions that can help life.
The two military-sponsored CubeSats launched alongside Landsat 9 were developed by an Austin, Texas-based company called CesiumAstro to test advanced communication technologies.
The two small satellites are part of cesium mission 1, developed in collaboration with the Defense Innovation Unit, which is part of the United States Department of Defense. CesiumAstro said in a press release that engineers plan a month of payment on both ships before the experimental phase of the mission begins.
Satellites have active phase matrix communications systems and inter-satellite links. The U.S. Space Force said the mission will demonstrate dynamic waveform switching capabilities and dynamic link optimization.
“CM1 provides an orbiting platform consisting of two satellites for customer experiments that exceed the limits of small satellite communication,” CesiumAstro says on its website.
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