From U Michigan: ” MXL – Test” Great Work from a Great University

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University of Michigan

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Contact Information
MXL – The Michigan Exploration Laboratory
FXB 2231
1320 Beal Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Dr. James W. Cutler

The Michigan Exploration Laboratory

A core part of the MXL effort is the development of novel flight vehicles and missions. We fly what we build, and build what we research. Below, we describe missions that are in operation, in development, in concept, and complete.

Operational Missions:

GRIFEX is the GEO-CAPE ROIC In-Flight Performance Experiment, a 3U CubeSat deployed to flight test novel imaging technology. It is a partnership between NASA ESTO, JPL, and MXL. GRIFEX was launched on 31 January 2015. It has completed its primary mission and is currently demo’ing secondary technologies and used to train to students.

MCubed, the Michigan Multipurpose Minisat is a joint mission between MXL and JPL. Two satellites were funded by NASA ESTO to perform flight validation of a flight processor board carrying the Xilinx Virtex-5QV XQR5VX130T FPGA processor. MCubed-1 is opertionally limited due to its docked status with the E1P CubeSat. MCubed-2 is fulling opertional and has completed its primary mission. It is currently an operations training satellite and technology testbed for MXL.

CADRE is “CubeSat-investigating Atmospheric Density Response to Extreme driving”, and is our next generation space weather mission. The science PI is Dr. Aaron Ridly and the mission was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). In late 2015, CADRE was launched to the ISS by NASA’s CubeSat launch initiative by Nanoracks and Orbital/ATK. CADRE is flying the WINCS instrument to assess the composition and characteristics of the thermosphere. The long term goal is to enable better understanding and prediction of space weather to improve our satellite position estimates.

Missions In Development:

TBEX, the Tandem Beacon Experiment (TBEx), consists of a tandem pair of CubeSats, each carrying tri-frequency radio beacons, in near identical, low inclination orbits and a cluster of diagnostic sensors on five islands in the Central Pacific sector. The science objectives and goals of TBEx are to study how the dynamics and processes in the troposphere can act to cause variability in the behavior of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. TBEx is developed by SRI International and MXL with funding from NASA.

PATRIOT is a 3U CubeSat developed by the University of Michigan’s Student Space Systems Fabrication Lab (S3FL). PATRIOT, (Plasma Ambipolar Thruster for Rapid In-Orbit Transfers), is a 3U CubeSat mission to demonstrate the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT) plasma source/engine in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This will be the first flight test of a nanosatellite propulsion system with significant delta-V capability. If will also conduct scientific research that will address the fundamental question of how plasmas expand in freespace. PATRIOT is a joint effort between PEPL and MXL. PATRIOT was selected in 2014 for launch with NASA’s ELaNa program.

Past Missions and Satellites:

The RAX-1 mission patch, as designed by Allison B. Craddock
The RAX-1 CubeSat was launched in November 2010. Unfortunately, an anomaly on the solar panels resulted in degradation of power generation until, after several months, RAX-1 was unable to generate power. This anomaly ultimately resulted in the premature end of the mission. Despite this early end, the RAX-1 mission still made great strides in CubeSat design, and was able to execute bistatic radar measurements that had never before been performed with a CubeSat. All other subsystems also performed well. The applied the lessons learned from RAX-1 to the design of a second flight unit, RAX-2, launched through the NASA Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program on October 28, 2011.

MCubed-2 was launched on 06 December 2013 as part of the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative. It successfully completed its mission of COVE operations before ceasing operation on 01 July 2014.

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The University of Michigan (U-M, UM, UMich, or U of M), frequently referred to simply as Michigan, is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. Originally, founded in 1817 in Detroit as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the Michigan Territory officially became a state, the University of Michigan is the state’s oldest university. The university moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 onto 40 acres (16 ha) of what is now known as Central Campus. Since its establishment in Ann Arbor, the university campus has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet (781 acres or 3.16 km²), and has two satellite campuses located in Flint and Dearborn. The University was one of the founding members of the Association of American Universities.

Considered one of the foremost research universities in the United States,[7] the university has very high research activity and its comprehensive graduate program offers doctoral degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as well as professional degrees in business, medicine, law, pharmacy, nursing, social work and dentistry. Michigan’s body of living alumni (as of 2012) comprises more than 500,000. Besides academic life, Michigan’s athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are collectively known as the Wolverines. They are members of the Big Ten Conference.