August 17, 2016 – The CU Boulder MinXSS CubeSat won the Mission of the Year award at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SmallSat conference. The conference was held August 6-11, 2016 on the campus of Utah State University and drew over 2,200 participants.
The MinXSS mission launched this spring and is orbiting Earth measuring a region of soft x-ray spectrum around Earth that is of interest to observations of solar flares. These emissions from the Sun can disrupt Earth’s upper atmosphere and hamper radio and GPS signals traveling through the region. The soft X-rays carry information about the temperature, density and chemical composition of material in the sun’s atmosphere, allowing scientists to trace how events like flares and other processes heat the surrounding material in the sun’s atmosphere.
The MinXSS mission exemplifies the increasing capability of low-cost CubeSat missions, which have proliferated as enabling technology has developed. CubeSats have become a low-cost way to take narrowly targeted scientific observations, with only a few instruments, frequently built from off-the-shelf components.
MinXSS will operate for up to 12 months. Its orbit will naturally degrade over time until it burns up in Earth’s atmosphere.