Science Overview

About Microbursts...

Scientific Objectives...

More information...

FIREBIRD Quick Facts
 • Firebird 2 Mission
    Launch date: Jan. 29, 2015
 • Firebird 1 Mission
    Launched: Dec. 5, 2013
 • Collaboration between
    Univ. of New Hampshire,
    Montana State Univ.,
    Los Alamos National
    the Aerospace Corp.
 • Mission duration:> 3 mos.
 • Twin CubeSat nanosatellites
    will measure electrons
    precipitating from the
    Van Allen radiation belts

More Information
   FIREBIRD Contacts ...

NSF logo


About Microbursts in the Radiation Belts

Microbursts are short-duration (~100ms) bursts of relativistic electrons precipitating from the radiation belts. Microbursts are capable of losing large numbers of electrons; it may be possible to empty a pre-storm electron belt in one day.

This sporadic, short time-scale electron dumping from the radiation belts into the upper atmosphere was discovered decades ago.  Beginning in 1992, low altitude observations from the SAMPEX Small Explorer satellite provided insight into the morphology of these electron microbursts. They occur in "clusters" consisting of many individual microbursts. Single satellites, like SAMPEX, are unable to discern the spatio-temporal behavior of electron microbursts at the cluster level and at the individual microburst scale. The two-satellite FIREBIRD mission will resolve the spatio-temporal variations of individual microbursts. 

Scientific Objectives

Firebird will answer three critical questions:

More information...

About the Radiation Belts...

About Space Weather...