Maryland Space Grant Consortium

Aether RockSat-XN

Program Type: Higher Education

The RockSat-XN program is a new partnership with Wallops Flight Facility and Andoya Space Center designed to give students access to space at a new launch site as part of the Grand Challenge Initiative. The program is being run in the same way as a RockSat-X program, with some schedule and program changes (no ACS and no recovery), but with the same system of design reviews, test reviews, and integration and testing at Wallops.

One of the special challenges of this project was to design a payload that met mission requirements for a launch from Andoya Space Center as opposed to Wallops, from which previous CapTechU RockSat-X payloads were launched. For this project, CapTechU decided to branch out from its engineering niche by partnering with University of Maryland Baltimore County faculty and students on a science-oriented payload. The project mission is to observe the effects of the Aurora Borealis on the atmosphere while testing the functionality of a modified Aerogel hybrid thermal insulation. The payload, designated Aether, will accomplish the first part of this via a custom built spark-gap spectroscopy instrument relying on compact solid-state high voltage transformers. Once the electrodes are at high potential, plasma breakdown can develop, and a compact spectrometer will be used to record atomic emission of elements present in the upper atmosphere. The payload will also use Iridium as a communications bus.

Funding note: project activity occurred during the current reporting cycle and thus the project is included in the present round of reporting. However, funds for the current fiscal year were not used to support this project, and hence it is reported as without cost