Ball Aerospace To Implement Earth Science CubeSat Mission For NASA

December 16, 2015 – Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colorado, has been selected by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to build and test a complete radiometric instrument on a Cubesat for a space mission.

The Ball radiometer is one of four projects to receive funding from the latest round of the In-Space Validation of Earth Science Technologies (INVEST) program in support of NASA’s Earth Science Division. InVEST is targeted to small instruments and instrument subsystems that can advance technology to enable relevant Earth science measurements.

“Validating advanced technologies on micro-spacecraft for our customers is an innovative way to introduce new architectures and complete important science goals,” said Jim Oschmann, vice president and general manager for Ball’s Civil Space business unit.

Work will begin on the Compact Infrared Radiometer in Space (CIRiS) in February 2016. CIRiS is an uncooled imaging infrared radiometer designed for high radiometric performance from Low Earth Orbit (LEO), including absolute on-orbit calibration. Instruments like CIRiS aboard inexpensive Cubesats could enable constellations that return significant scientific research and land use management data for NASA.

Launch of CIRiS is anticipated in early 2018 followed by three months of on-orbit operations. Ball Aerospace principal investigator for CIRiS David Osterman stated the on-orbit phase of the project will validate data processing algorithms and calibration, and also verify radiometric performance.

Potential future applications of Cubesats with the CIRiS design include studies of the hydrological cycle, urban climate and extreme storms; measurements to improve climate modeling; and support to land use management via vegetation monitoring and water absorption mapping.