Undergraduate Nano Ionospheric Temperature Explorer (UNITE) - 10.04.18

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Undergraduate Nano Ionospheric Temperature Explorer (UNITE) is a CubeSat that measures plasma properties in the lower ionosphere, which is rarely studied. It also measures temperatures inside the CubeSat and on its skin and compares them with a student-developed thermal model. In addition, an onboard GPS unit tracks orbital decay in order to update CubeSat drag models.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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

OpNom:

Principal Investigator(s)
Glen Kissel, Ph.D., University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, IN, United States
Barrett Caldwell, Ph.D., Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Information Pending

Developer(s)
University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, IN, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
October 2018 - April 2019

Expeditions Assigned
57/58

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Undergraduate Nano Ionospheric Temperature Explorer (UNITE) measures plasma properties in the rarely investigated lower ionosphere using a Langmuir Plasma Probe.
  • UNITE measures temperature inside and on the skin of the CubeSat to compare with a student-developed thermal model.
  • UNITE tracks orbital decay using a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit to improve drag models for the extremely low-Earth orbit region.

Description

The Undergraduate Nano Ionospheric Temperature Explorer (UNITE) 3U CubeSat is designed and built by an all undergraduate team at the University of Southern Indiana as part of NASA’s Undergraduate Student Instrument Program-2 (USIP-2). UNITE calculates plasma properties in the lower ionosphere using data from a Langmuir Plasma Probe, to measure temperatures in the interior and on the skin of the CubeSat to compare with a student-developed thermal model, and to carefully track the orbital decay, especially near re-entry, using an onboard Global Positioning System (GPS) unit.
 
The Langmuir Plasma Probe is a ram-directed planar probe that is swept from -4.5 V to +4.5 V, from whose I-V curve the electron density and electron temperature are determined. Such data is taken occasionally as the CubeSat descends from 400 km for the first year, but with heavier sampling below 225 km, and especially as re-entry is approached. The data is gathered during the time of a solar minimum.
 
Each face of the CubeSat has a temperature sensor, with one each, as well, on the command board and the magnetometer. Temperature data is taken at regular intervals during the mission and the data is compared with a student-developed thermal model in Thermal Desktop. Using the on-orbit data, adjustments are made to the thermal model.
 
A GPS unit with Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) limits removed is used to carefully track the CubeSat’s orbit and its decay. GPS data, especially near re-entry, allows for possible updates to orbital drag models.

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Applications

Space Applications
This investigation provides thermal models of CubeSats, which have scant confirmation from on-orbit data. Orbit decay data could improve CubeSat orbital drag models for low-Earth orbit.

Earth Applications
Data on ionospheric plasma may provide valuable inputs for operation of certain navigation systems on Earth.

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols

NanoRacks CubeSats launch to the International Space Station (ISS) already integrated within a NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) or NanoRacks DoubleWide Deployer (NRDD). ISS crew members transfer each NRCSD/NRDD from the launch vehicle to the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) and visual inspection for damage is performed. 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. NanoRacks CubeSats are deployed by JAXA ground controllers via commands.
 
Following deployment from the ISS in early 2019, UNITE is deployed and orbits the Earth for about 450 days. Its Globalstar-based communication system allows nearly 24-hour coverage of the mission, which is complemented by a student-designed mobile app, allowing mission monitoring from one’s smartphone. Transmissions are structured to provide intense data collection the first week of the mission, followed by more modest collection until the CubeSat reaches altitudes below 300 km, where the magnetometer is sampled to confirm stabilization in the ram direction of the passively stabilized vehicle. Frequent Langmuir Probe and GPS sampling and transmissions occur below 225 km, even up to re-entry, allowing valuable data collection in the extremely low-Earth orbit region. Temperature measurements occur throughout the mission.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
UNITE Cubesat

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Imagery