OSIRIS-3U (OSIRIS-3U) - 08.08.18

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
OSIRIS-3U is an integrated CubeSat that conducts measurements of the Earth’s ionosphere, in coordination with a ground-based astronomy observatory. The ionosphere is a zone of the upper atmosphere comprised of charged particles that influences communications, radiation levels, and other atmospheric effects. OSIRIS-3U improves understanding of this region by making close-range observations of pulses sent into specific areas of the ionosphere by the ground-based Arecibo Observatory.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Sven Bilén, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Sven Bilén, Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, United States

John Mathews, Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, United States
Paul Bernhardt, Ph.D., Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC, United States
Rebecca Bishop, Ph.D., The Aerospace Corporation, El Segundo, CA, United States

The Penn State Student Space Programs Laboratory, The Pennsylvania State University - COE, University Park, PA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2017 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The OSIRIS-3U support crew coordinates with Arecibo Observatory to provide artificially stimulated areas of the ionosphere that are measured as OSIRIS-3U flies through the heated region.
  • Measurements of local electron density, temperature, and electric potential of the plasma environment is measured using a pulsed Langmuir probe.
  • The Coherent Electromagnetic Radio Tomography (CERTO) beacon is used to obtain measurements of total electron content (TEC) by transmitting at UHF and VHF frequencies. Receivers are set up in Puerto Rico.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) radio occultation (GPSRO) is used to obtain TEC between OSIRIS-3U and an occulting GPS satellite, the electron density profile, and scintillation data.


The OSIRIS-3U satellite is used in the investigation of space weather phenomena via measurements of the stimulated ionosphere. Coordinating with Arecibo observatory, a region of the ionosphere is heated to simulate a “space weather” event. Electron density, temperature, and content measurements are collected in the region modified by the ionospheric heating. In addition, Global Positioning System (GPS) scintillation data is collected.
The system is built using a three-unit CubeSat structure. Two units are devoted to a bus structure to support the scientific instruments. The bus includes a power distribution system, attitude control system, communication system, and command and data handling system. The bus is built around two stacks of circuit boards that adhere to the CubeSat kit standard. The third unit is devoted to housing the scientific instruments on the spacecraft.

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Space Applications
OSIRIS-3U contributes to space communication capabilities and mission preparedness by advancing understanding of how the Earth’s ionosphere is affected by space weather phenomena. Proper communication and flight system design depends on a detailed knowledge of the ionosphere and how it can affect the small spacecraft environment.

Earth Applications
OSIRIS-3U provides about the Earth’s ionosphere that can help researchers better predict its behavior to different space weather phenomena. A better understanding of the ionosphere contributes to the development of next-generation communications technology, and provides fundamental constraints on atmospheric models.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

NanoRacks CubeSats are delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) already integrated within a NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) or NanoRacks DoubleWide Deployer (NRDD). A crew member transfers each NRCSD/NRDD from the launch vehicle to the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). Visual inspection for damage to each NRCSD is performed. When CubeSat deployment operations begin, the NRCSD/NRDDs are unpacked, mounted on the JAXA Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform (MPEP) and placed on the JEM airlock slide table for transfer outside the ISS. A crew member operates the JEM Remote Manipulating System (JRMS) – to grapple and position for deployment. CubeSats are deployed when JAXA ground controllers command a specific NRCSD.
The OSIRIS-3U satellite, upon deployment from the NRCSD, begins charging its batteries until the battery voltage has reached a predefined value, after which it activates a burn wire mechanism. This releases the communication and science antennas, and the boom for the Langmuir probe. After all deployables are released, system checkout begins. Once system checkout is complete and contact with the ground is made, the satellite enters an idle state until it is given the command for a science pass. During a science pass the CubeSat passes through the heated region of the ionosphere and takes measurements of electron temperature, density, and content. Science and telemetry data is downlinked as often as possible.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
Student Space Programs Laboratory

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