CubeSat constellation for NASA hurricane observation to be built by Blue Canyon

CubeSat constellation for NASA hurricane observation to be built by Blue Canyon

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BCT will build a constellation of CubeSats for an observing system that will enable NASA to monitor environmental inner-core conditions for tropical cyclones.

US: Hurricanes adversely affected the United States this year. In the past few months, the US and Caribbean regions have weathered a large number of catastrophic storms. In order to understand why we are witnessing such drastic changes in tropical storm patterns, Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) will build a constellation of CubeSats for an observing system that will enable NASA to monitor environmental inner-core conditions for tropical cyclones.

The 3U spacecraft will be built at BCT’s new Spacecraft Manufacturing in Boulder, Colorado. Expected to be operational in early 2018, the office and laboratories will be designed particularly for the high-volume production of small spacecraft systems and components, and have the manufacturing capability to handle large constellations of small spacecraft.

BCT will build seven XACT-based 3U-class CubeSats for the Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission. The satellites will be divided into three low-Earth orbital planes and will consist of a single high-performance radiometer payload hosted on a spacecraft bus. Each payload includes a BCT-designed motor as well as electronics to control the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory (LL) payload spin mechanism.

As per the terms of a contract, BCT will manufacture each 3U spacecraft bus, integrate the radiometer payloads from MIT LL and test each complete spacecraft. One qualification unit and six flight units will be delivered under the contract.

The objective of the TROPICS mission is to provide the first high-revisit microwave observations of temperature, precipitation, and humidity over tropical regions. The thermodynamics of the troposphere and precipitation structure for the storm will be observed using these measurements.

George Stafford, BCT president, said “The TROPICS mission is the first to use a constellation of CubeSats for high-revisit microwave observations of weather. BCT is excited to see our high-performance CubeSat bus being used in such an important scientific mission. We’re taking advantage of the opportunities that constellations can realize.”

“This constellation will also be the first to use our much larger and more capable small satellite manufacturing facility currently being built near our existing offices. This new capability will allow us to build, test, and integrate small satellites from CubeSats up to 200 kg ESPA class.”

BCT’s highly integrated 3U CubeSat includes an ultra-precise attitude control system that allows for accurate knowledge and fine-pointing of the satellite payload. Electrical power and command and data handling systems, which are designed for long life and reliability over the course of the mission lifetime, are also included in BCT bus avionics.