A CubeSat-Compatible Neutral Wind Sensor

Period of Performance: 10/23/2013 - 01/21/2016

$750K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Creare, Inc.
16 Great Hollow Road Array
Hanover, NH 03755
Principal Investigator

Abstract

ABSTRACT: CubeSats provide a new, low-cost platform for space weather missions. They enable new mission paradigms, such as the ability to perform multiple measurements of the same physical phenomena globally from several satellites, in contrast to high-accuracy measurements of multiple phenomena on the same spacecraft. Flight-tested neutral wind sensors must be miniaturized to fit into these much smaller platforms. Creare and its partners propose to develop a CubeSat-compatible neutral wind sensor for making vector neutral wind measurements in the thermosphere from a single CubeSat platform. The proposed sensor builds on demonstrated sensing concepts and innovative technology to significantly reduce size, weight, and power. Our proposed sensor will fit into a 1U cube (10 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm) volume for integration into a 3U CubeSat, which would include all of the required subsystems necessary to obtain accurate vector neutral wind measurements from orbit altitudes between 90 and 500 km. BENEFIT: This technology represents a breakthrough advancement that will enable the gathering of scientific data about the neutral winds in the thermosphere that was previously very difficult or expensive to achieve. This data will enable improved modeling of satellite drag and radio wave scintillation as the neutral wind drivers are better understood. Potential spinoffs of the sensor technology include application of the space-compatible field-emission technology to other space environmental and industrial sensors.