Conference Paper

Science of opportunity: Heliophysics on the FASTSAT mission and STP-S26

DOI: 10.1109/AERO.2011.5747235 Conference: Aerospace Conference, 2011 IEEE
Source: IEEE Xplore


The FASTSAT spacecraft, which was launched on November 19, 2010 on the DoD STP-S26 mission, carries three instruments developed in joint collaboration by NASA GSFC and the US Naval Academy: PISA, TTI, and MINI-ME.1,2 As part of a rapid-development, low-cost instrument design and fabrication program, these instruments were a perfect match for FASTSAT, which was designed and built in less than one year. These instruments, while independently developed, provide a collaborative view of important processes in the upper atmosphere relating to solar and energetic particle input, atmospheric response, and ion outflow. PISA measures in-situ irregularities in electron number density, TTI provides limb measurements of the atomic oxygen temperature profile with altitude, and MINI-ME provides a unique look at ion populations by a remote sensing technique involving neutral atom imaging. Together with other instruments and payloads on STP-S26 such as the NSF RAX mission, FalconSat-5, and NanoSail-D (launched as a tertiary payload from FASTSAT), these instruments provide a valuable “constellation of opportunity” for following the flow of energy and charged and neutral particles through the upper atmosphere. Together, and for a small fraction of the price of a major mission, these spacecraft will measure the energetic electrons impacting the upper atmosphere, the ions leaving it, and the large-scale plasma and neutral response to these energy inputs. The result will be a new model for maximizing scientific return from multiple small, distributed payloads as secondary payloads on a larger launch vehicle.

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    ABSTRACT: Intersatellite links or crosslinks provide direct connectivity between two or more satellites, thus eliminating the need for intermediate ground stations when sending data. Intersatellite links have been considered for satellite constellation missions involving earth observation and com-munications. Historically, a large satellite system has needed an extremely high financial budget. However, the advent of the successful CubeSat platform allows for small satellites of less than one kilogram. This low-mass pico-satellite class platform could provide financially feasible support for large platform satellite constellations. This article surveys past and planned large intersatellite linking systems. Then, the article chronicles CubeSat communication subsystems used historically and in the near future. Finally, we examine the history of inter-networking protocols in space and open research issues with the goal of moving towards the next generation intersatellite-linking constellation supported by CubeSat platform satellites.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · Journal of Communications