Undergraduate and graduate students will be heavily involved in the Radio Aurora Explorer (RAX) project, which will be led by the
This CubeSat, as it is called, will be the first free-flying spacecraft built in part by
CubeSats, developed about five years ago, are approximately 4in cube-shaped devices that launch from inside a P-Pod, a special rocket attachment that was developed by
The RAX will measure the energy flow in the ionosphere, the highest part of Earth’s atmosphere where solar radiation turns regular atoms into charged particles. Disturbances in the ionosphere can affect earth-to-space communications such as GPS signals, digital satellite television and voice and data transmission systems including Iridium and Globalstar.
James Cutler, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and a principal investigator on the project, said: ‘This project will help us better understand space weather processes, how the Earth and sun interact, and how this weather produces noise in space communication signals – noise that translates to lower quality telecommunications capabilities and error in GPS signals.’