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Radiometer Atmospheric CubeSat Experiment (RACE)

The RACE Mission:
RACE will assist in demonstrating and validating critical technologies that will improve NASA's exploration, science, and discovery mission objectives (NASA Science Mission Directorate).

Mission Objectives:

  • To advance the technology of the 35 nm indium phosphide (InP) receiver subsystem of the radiometer instrument
  • To advance the technology of a 183 GHz water vapor radiometer CubeSat system
  • To reduce the risk for future users of the technology
  • To enhance the hands-on training for the RACE project team members within the Phaeton Program platform
  • To explore possibilities for smaller missions with distributed risks

RACE Mission-Operations Concept

What are Radiometers?
Radiometers are instruments that measure electromagnetic radiation. All objects with physical temperatures above zero (0) Kelvin radiate energy at different frequencies. Knowing the intensity of this radiation at different frequencies provides useful information about the measured object or scene. The RACE radiometer will measure microwave radiation from the 183 GHz water vapor line, which is relevant to the water cycle and Earth energy budget. Key to the instrument development is a low noise amplifier front end that utilizes the 35 nm Indium Phosphide (InP) High Electron Mobility Transistors (HEMT) process developed by Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (NGAS). JPL is a leader in developing low power and low noise figure 183 GHz receivers stemming from substantial NASA Earth Science Technology (ESTO) investments.

Direct assimilation of the calibrated radiometer measurements into numerical weather prediction models will improve forecasts models and future Earth's climate system models. The passive nature of radiometers reduces power requirements, and combined with the small physical size due to frequency scaling, they are ideally suited with the smaller and cheaper niche of CubeSats

RACE - Radiometer

RACE Radiometer Callout Showing the Various Components

RACE - Radiometer Payload

The CubeSat:
CubeSats are cube-shaped nanosatellites built on 10x10x10 cm units, termed 1U. RACE will be a 3U CubeSat, that is 30x10x10 cm. The concept of CubeSats originated in academia to provide a means for university students to perform space science and exploration at low cost. After numerous successful launches and demonstrations of CubeSats, interest in these low risk, low cost, and quick turnaround missions has increased at JPL and NASA.

A radiometer within a CubeSat platform has the potential to revolutionize systems by moving from the traditional large scale missions (risky and expensive) to various smaller missions. RACE was selected by the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) in 2012. The The Satellite Design Laboratory (SDL) at the University of Texas at Austin is designing, building, and testing and the CubeSat for the RACE mission. The RACE radiometer is designed to fit within a 1.5 U volume (10cm x 10cm x 15cm).

RACE - CubeSatRACE - CubeSat

RACE Spacecraft in Various Stages of Development

RACE is manifested for launch on Cygnus CRS Orb-3, tentatively slated for launch on Oct 27th 2014. It will be the 8th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa-8). From the International Space Station, RACE will be launched at a future date through a NanoRacks deployer.

Major Schedule Milestones:

  • Kick-Off: 5/7/12
  • System Requirements Review: 7/10/12
  • Preliminary Design Review: 10/3/12
  • Critical Design Review: 3/13/13
  • Radiometer Delivery to UT Austin: 11/13/13
  • Flight System Delivery to JPL: 2/13/4
  • Flight System First Thermal-Vacuum Test 04/02/14
  • Flight System Final Tests: 8/27/14
  • Launch: 10/27/14

    RACE - Radiometer Payload

Current Project Members:

1. Shannon Statham - Project Manager/Spacecraft CTM/I&T Lead
2. Jessica Clark - Project Systems Engineer
3. Boon Lim - Principal Investigator
4. Raymond Ellyin – Mission Assurance Manager
5. Sidharth Misra – Instrument Scientist
6. Max Bryk – Radiometer Power Electronics Cognizant Engineer
7. Kenneth Donahue – Radiometer Flight Software Cognizant Engineer
8. Joel Steinkraus – Radiometer Cognizant Engineer/Radiometer Structural & Thermal Cognizant Engineer
9. Andrew Romero-Wolf – Radiometer Antenna Cognizant Engineer
10. Rudi Bendig – Communications and Ground Test Support Engineer
11. Maneesh Gupta – I&T Engineer

Retired Project Members: 1. Steve Vance – Project Manager
2. Alexander Kadesch – Project Systems Engineer/Project Manager
3. Michael Shearn – Radiometer Cognizant Engineer
4. Oleg Sindiy – MOS/GDS Lead

For additional information, contact Boon Lim: