CubeSats prove their worth for scientific missions

phys.org | 5/16/2016 | Staff
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Only a few years ago, the astronomy and heliophysics communities were skeptical about whether CubeSats could reliably obtain scientific data. But these breadloaf-size satellites have proven their ability to return useful data.

During the American Physical Society's April Meeting 2019, being held April 13-16, in Denver, Colorado, Christopher S. Moore, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the Solar and Stellar X-ray Group, will describe how the twin Miniature X-ray Solar Spectometer (MinXSS) CubeSats measure soft X-rays from the Sun. These were the first solar science-oriented CubeSat missions flown for the NASA Science Mission Directorate.

Meeting - Moore - Dozen - Graduate - Students

As he will describe at the meeting, Moore was one of several dozen graduate students who contributed to MinXSS over its lifetime. He worked on the MinXSS CubeSats as part of his doctoral research at the University of Colorado Boulder.

"This work demonstrated that these small, relatively cheap—ranging from $1 million to $2 million for MinXSS—CubeSats can collect data that fills a specific niche and is consistent with large satellites, which are much more expensive, and contribute to major science investigations," said Moore.

MinXSS-1 - December - Cygnus - OA-4 - Launch

MinXSS-1 was launched in December 2015 on the Atlas-V Cygnus OA-4 Launch, Orbital ATK resupply mission to the International Space Station, where it was deployed for an approximately 12-month orbit around Earth. The second version, MinXXS-2, was launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 as part of the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express in December 2018 and deployed for a four- to five-year orbit and operation.

Science-oriented CubeSats are low-cost, short-lifespan satellites built to take specific scientific observations and measurements. MinXSS, for example, features cost-saving components such as an extendable tape measure that serves as a radio antenna.

Science - Payload - Spectrometer - Compatibility - Environment

Its science payload consists of a soft X-ray spectrometer that was modified for compatibility with the harsh environment of space. MinXSS is also carrying silicon-based photometers...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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