Small Satellite-based System for Active and Passive Sounding of the Ionosphere DC-HF

Period of Performance: 09/06/2013 - 11/27/2015


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Atmospheric & Space Technology Research
5777 Central Avenue, Suite 221
Boulder, CO 80301
Principal Investigator


ABSTRACT: The Air Force and other DoD organizations require accurate knowledge of the ionospheric environment to understand and predict its impacts on vital radio-based systems, including communications, navigation, and surveillance systems. The DoD has placed requirements in the IORD-II document for measurements of the ionosphere that include specification of ionospheric properties such as electric fields and electron density profiles (EDP). The objective of this work is to investigate the development of a next- generation, advanced, miniature, topside ionospheric sounder (TIS) that is compatible with nano-satellite infrastructures and can be integrated with a Double-Probe E-field instrument. To address this objective we propose to: i) Design, build, and test a 3-axis topside ionospheric sounder with loop antenna system that is 6U-CubeSat compatible. ii) Design, build, and test a prototype rigid boom double probe electric field sensor that is CubeSat compatible. iii) Integrate and test the TIS and DP to deliver a single CubeSat sized instrument package that can provide both the capability of traditional ionospheric sounding (remote sensing) and in-situ electric field measurements. iv) Develop analysis software for the topside ionograms. BENEFIT: At the end of Phase-II, we will deliver a prototype combined Topside Sounder and Dual Probe Electric Field instrument package suitable for bench-top evaluation. Phase II work will have demonstrated the feasibility of combining and operating a topside sounder with a Dual Probe E-field instrument in a resource constrained CubeSat platform. The resulting design would provide AFRL with a new capability for space weather monitoring fulfilling critical SSAEM ionospheric objectives. The work complements the proposal team s existing effort on the development of DIME E-field probe and expertise in the low-power FMCW systems for ionospheric sounding. The observations most needed to advance space weather for the DoD are distributed multipoint measurements of the electric field and EDP in the space environment. The combined TIS/DP instrument will enable the DoD to affordably achieve these observations by flying this low-power instrument package on a constellation of miniature satellites.