Topside Ionospheric Sounder for CubeSats

Thursday, 18 December 2014
John Pratt1, Charles Swenson2, Chad S Fish3, Clive Winkler3, Marcin Pilinski3, Irfan Azeem3, Geoffrey Crowley4, Matt Jeppesen5 and Ryan Martineau2, (1)Center for Space Engineering, Logan, UT, United States, (2)Utah State University, Logan, UT, United States, (3)Atmospheric and Space Technology Research Associates LLC, Boulder, CO, United States, (4)ASTRA, Lafayette, CO, United States, (5)Space Dynamics Laboratory, North Logan, UT, United States
This presentation will outline the design of a Topside Ionospheric Sounder (TIS) for CubeSats. In the same way that an ionosonde measures the ionospheric profile from the ground, a Topside Sounder measures the ionospheric profile from a location above the F-region peak. The TIS will address the need for increased space situational awareness and environmental monitoring by estimating electron density profiles in the topside of the ionosphere. The TIS will measure topside electron density profiles for plasma frequencies ranging from 0.89 MHz to 28.4 MHz below the satellite altitude. The precision of the measurement will be 5% or 10,000 p/cm^3. The TIS average power consumption will be below 10 W and a mass of less than 10 kg, so it is appropriate for a 6U Cubesat (or multiple of that size). The sounder will operate via a transmitted frequency sweep across the desired plasma frequencies which, upon reception, can be differenced to determine range and density information of the topside ionosphere. The velocity of the spacecraft necessitates careful balancing of range resolution and frequency knowledge requirements as well as novel processing techniques to correctly associate the return signal with the correct plasma frequency. TIS is being designed to provide a low cost, low mass spacecraft that can provide accurate topside profiles of the ionospheric electron density in order to further understanding of ionospheric structure and dynamic processes in the ionosphere.