Flight projects

Mission NameAcronymLaunch/Deploy DateDescription
Microwave Radiometer Technology AccelerationMiRaTA
March 2017 courtesy NASA CSLI ELaNA 14NASA ESTO-sponsored technology demonstration.
3-band CubeSat all-weather radiometer:
~60 GHz (temperature)
~183 GHz (humidity)
~207 GHz (cloud ice)
to achieve absolute calibration better than 1 K.
Demonstrate atmospheric GPSRO from a CubeSat platform, validate to 1.5 K.
Compare radiometer and GPSRO fields-of-view for cross-validation and to link radiometer calibration to NIST standards.
Microsized Microwave Atmospheric Satellite-2MicroMAS-2 or MM2
TBDReflight of MicroMAS-1 with additional radiometer bands (12 channel, 90-206 GHz scanning radiometer) and redundant radios. MicroMAS-2 is a demonstration for TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats), which is a constellation of 12 similar satellites that recently recently was selected to be funded by NASA in the Earth Venture Instrument 3 Competition.
Microsized Microwave Atmospheric SatelliteMicroMAS-1
July 13, 2014/March 4, 2015 from ISS courtesy NASA/NanoRacksScanning (40 rpm) passive 118 GHz microwave radiometer on a CubeSat for temperature mapping. Design demonstrated feasibility of approach. Radio transmitter failure 1 week into mission. With limited data, validated engineering subsystems but did not have time to turn on science instrument.
Transiting Exoplanet Survey SatelliteTESS
December 2017 (NLT June 2018)TESS will monitor the brightness of stars in search of temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Led by PI Dr. George Ricker (MIT), STAR Lab graduate student Tam Nguyen is developing models and a validation scheme for TESS fine-pointing system, improving fine-pointing performance, and performing optical testing and characterization of the flight instrument.

Hardware development projects

Nanosatellite Optical Downlink ExperimentNODE
Laser communications module for CubeSats. Uses two-stage control with a MEMS fast steering mirror as well as an 850 nm uplink beacon for pointing a 2 mrad beam. 10 W input power for >50 Mbps 1550 nm amplified laser to a 30 cm aperture ground station with a COTS APD. Demonstrated prototype. Next step is flight packaging and testing.
Miniature Particle Discriminating Radiation DetectorSparrow
Miniature energetic particle discrimination detector. Incoming light excites scintillator material, producing a light pulse, which is converted to an analog signal. An ADC and CPU digitize and process the signal from the light sensor to extract information about the incoming radiation. The instrument is low-SWaP, low cost, capable of performing on-orbit processing, and reprogrammable with a "software defined detector." Prototype in development.
Deformable Mirror Demonstration MissionDeMi
CubeSat scale instrument for characterizing the performance of high actuator count deformable mirrors on orbit using a Shack Hartmann wavefront sensor. Prototype in development.
Active Polarimetric Orbital Debris IdentificationpolarimetryBench-top active polarimeter experimentally determines the polarimetric Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function (BRDF) of several common spacecraft materials and coatings. Then we estimate each material’s Mueller matrix and associated polarimetric properties as a function of the illumination and viewing geometry. Prototype in development.

Software development projects

System Event Evaluation RoutineSEER
Analysis of commercial GEO communications satellite telemetry and comparison with data from GEO and other radiation sensors. Goal to evaluate how sensitive common ComSat components are to space weather and develop tools for prediction and identification of onboard anomalies.
Resource Aware SmallSat PlannerRASP
Mixed-Integer Linear Programming applied to small satellite constellations for optimizing observation times and targets while conserving resources.
Star tracker algorithmsTETRAOptimized star identification algorithms. Hashing-based algorithms are applied to the computer vision problem of identifying stars in images of the night sky. Identified stars provide accurate pointing for satellite missions.
Extrasolar Giant Planets modelingEGPModeling of exoplanet albedo spectra using radiative transfer models.

Mission concepts

MIT student-designed entry into the NASA CubeQuest Lunar Derby challenge. Uses green monopropellant propulsion system to achieve lunar orbit, and a laser communications downlink to achieve the best burst data rate.
Cubesat Atmospheric Probe Aeroshell and BaLloon ExperimentCAPABLE
CubeSat deployable balloons