NanoRacks-IceCube (NanoRacks-IceCube) - 06.14.17

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
NanoRacks-IceCube consists of a CubeSat launched from the International Space Station (ISS) that performs first-of-a-kind measurements of ice particles embedded within clouds. These measurements not only advance atmospheric monitoring technology, they also fill in critical gaps in understanding of how cloud ice affects the weather and how cloud formations process atmospheric radiation. NanoRacks-IceCube uses a sensor new to space exploration that detects ice particles of different sizes at altitudes that correspond to the upper areas of heavy thunderstorms or the mid-sections of hurricane systems.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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


Principal Investigator(s)
Dong Wu, Ph.D., Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States

Information Pending

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States
Greenbelt Campus and Wallops Flight Facility

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2016 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Cloud ice properties are fundamental controlling variables of radiative transfer and precipitation.
  • Large discrepancies in ice water path (IWP) exist in global circulation models.
  • Limited availability of data and poor assumptions about the cloud micro- and macro-physical properties of clouds are principle contributors to the discrepancy.
  • No ice cloud measurements currently exist for the intermediate altitudes.
  • Millimeter and submillimeter wave radiometry offers great potential to fill the measurement gap in the middle and upper troposphere.


Ice clouds play a key role in Earth's climate system, primarily through regulating atmospheric radiation and interacting with dynamic, energetic and precipitation processes. Submillimeter wave remote sensing offers a unique capability for improving cloud ice measurements from space, due to its great depth of cloud penetration and volumetric sensitivity to cloud ice mass. At 883 GHz, ice cloud scattering produces a larger brightness temperature depression than at lower frequencies, which can be used to retrieve vertically-integrated cloud Ice Water Path ( IWP) and ice particle size.
The objective of the NanoRacks-IceCube project is to retire risks of the 883 GHz receiver technology for future Earth and space remote sensing instruments by raising its Technology Readiness Level (TRL) from 5 to 7. The project demonstrates, on a 3U CubeSat in a low-Earth orbit (LEO) environment, a heterodyne receiver system with less than 2 K calibration uncertainty.

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Space Applications
The NanoRacks-IceCube instrument demonstrates sensors that record the make-up and dynamics of planetary atmospheres. NanoRack-IceCube also demonstrates how CubeSats incrementally test and deploy new technologies in preparation for their integration with larger and longer missions.

Earth Applications
NanoRacks-IceCube validates an important atmospheric monitoring technology and provides critical information for climate and weather models. Validation of the sensor used to detect cloud ice supports current and future remote sensing applications. The data generated by NanoRacks-IceCube constrains calculations of atmospheric energy balance and contributes to understanding of the atmospheric water cycle.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
NanoRacks CubeSats are delivered to the ISS already integrated within a NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD). A crew member transfers each NRCSD from the launch vehicle to the JEM. Visual inspection for damage to each NRCSD is performed. When CubeSat deployment operations begin, the NRCSDs 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.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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The NanoRacks-IceCube stowed and ready for flight. Image courtesy of NASA.

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The NanoRacks-IceCube Space Craft Team (from left to right: Brooks Flaherty, Scott Heatwole, Chris Purdy, Jerry Cote, Brian Abresch, Henry Hart, Alex Coleman, Bob Stancil, Kurt Redderson, and Ted Daisey). Image courtesy of NASA.

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NanoRacks-IceCube solar array deployment (pictured left to right: Alex Coleman, Kurt Redderson, and Henry Hart). Image courtesy of NASA.

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