FIREBIRD Spacecraft

Launched CubeSats...


FIREBIRD Quick Facts
 • Launch date: 2012
 • Collaboration between
    Univ. of New Hampshire,
    Montana State Univ.,
    Boston University and
    the Aerospace Corp.
 • Mission duration: 4 months
 • Twin CubeSat nanosatellites
    will measure electrons
    precipitating from the
    Van Allen radiation belts

More Information
   FIREBIRD Contacts ...

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FIREBIRD Spacecraft

Two identical 1.5U (10 x 10 x 15cm) CubeSat spacecraft, each weighing up to 2 kg., will be placed into a common high-inclination bead-on-a-string orbit.

Each satellite will carry a two solid-state detctor charged particle sensors with different geometric factors optimized to cover electron measurements over the energy range from 0.25 to ~1 MeV in six differential energy channels.

  Above, a computer aided design drawing of a FIREBIRD satellite. CubeSat standards specify a 10 x 10 x 10cm cube as 1U. Each FIREBIRD is a 1.5U structure; the upper 1/2U is the sensor assembly (FIRE) developed by Univ. of N.H.; the bottom 1U is the spacecraft bus (BIRD) developed by Montana State Univ.

Detectors are read out by a custom application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC), designed by The Aerospace Corporation, called the Dual Amplifier Pulse Peak Energy Rundown ASIC. Onboard memory stores fast sample observations needed to resolve spatial structure; survey observations identify times of interest to download the highest temporal resolution data within the limited telemetry stream. While all data from the instruments are saved on board for ~4 weeks, FIREBIRD telemeters a reduced event identification data product to the ground each day in order to select particular intervals with microbursts to download for scientific analysis.

The satellites will remain within ~400 km of one another for up to four months, allowing characterization over the spatial scale regime from 10-300 km.

sensor assembly   sensor  
A single engineering unit sensor assembly. The sensor assembly houses two solid-state detectors, one (bottom right corner) collimated and the other (top left corner) uncollimated
An Engineering model of a single FIREBIRD satellite. The sensor assembly detector apertures are seen on top.      

Implementation Responsibilities
  MSU Satellite bus and subsystems
  Integration and testing
  Tracking, command and telemetry from MSU ground station
  Science analysis and publication of results

 LANL/UNH Payload design and development
  Science operations center
  Science analysis and publication of results

 Aerospace Corp. Sensor development assistance
  Sensor calibration assistance
  Industry internship(s) for students