Michigan Aerospace Corporation proposes to design and construct an engineering model version of a remote-sensing instrument, based around a Fabry-Perot interferometer, for sensing thermospheric winds and temperatures from a CubeSat-class satellite. This instrument will provide an important, relatively inexpensive and compact means for measuring important elements of the state of the thermosphere, with implications for improving space weather observations and forecasts and improving the modeling of the solar/terrestrial interaction. A relatively low-cost instrument on a cubesat allows for the possibility of multiple satellites in various orbit to obtain a more complete picture of the thermosphere than currently available from single platforms for a reasonable cost. Michigan Aerospace’s extensive experience with Fabry-Perot interferometers and sensor systems based on them, including for thermospheric sensing, will help pave the path towards this program’s success.
Measuring thermospheric winds from a CubeSat-class satellite will allow morewidespread space-based observations of this important component of space weather,with orbits chosen to be optimal for the purposes of the observations. Also, such a smallsensor could serve as a secondary or tertiary payload aboard other satellites. Theresulting data will help refine NASA models for space weather forecasting andthermospheric modeling efforts.
The military has interests similar to NASA in better space forecasting and modeling, as itis important for the protection of space-based assets, terrestrial power, and othermilitary networks. Civilian users will benefit from improved NASA modeling of spaceweather than can affect user networks and satellites.