Space Weather Atmospheric Reconfigurable Multiscale Experiment CubeSat (SWARM-EX) is a collaboration between six colleges and universities (University of Colorado Boulder, Stanford, University of South Alabama, Western Michigan University, Olin, and Georgia Tech). Together, we are constructing three 3U CubeSats that will be launched in 2024 and be used to collect atmospheric data.
SWARM-EX is a bold step towards addressing outstanding aeronomy questions achieved through a global constellation of CubeSat swarms making in-situ ionospheric and thermospheric measurements between 300 and 600 km altitude.
The vision is to use swarms of 6-12 CubeSats operating cooperatively in a common orbital plane. The CubeSats in each swarm will range in separation from 1 to 1000 km and this separation will be controlled by a combination of differential drag and onboard propulsion. In the future, we will use dozens of swarms operating in different orbital planes and altitudes to address compelling aeronomy and space weather questions.
The SWARM-EX spacecraft will use a custom bus leveraging high TRL components while providing accommodation for a suite of 1U or smaller science instruments. SWARM-Ex is a pathfinder mission using three CubeSats that will demonstrate key technologies and address scientific questions related to the evolution of the equatorial ionization anomaly (EIA) and equatorial thermospheric anomaly (ETA). The SWARM-EX 3U CubeSats will include a low-rate UHF radio that will demonstrate satellite crosslinks required to maintain the constellation separation when flying at < 10 km separations, a high rate X-band data downlink and a scalable propulsion system. These components fit into a 2.25U form factor providing 0.75U for the science instruments.
To address the EIA/ETA science questions SWARM-EX will include the FIPEX neutral oxygen sensor and a Langmuir Probe measuring ion density. Both instruments have flight heritage, reducing the risk to the program. The SWARM-EX pathfinder mission will address the science question from the National Research Council’s Heliophysics Decadal Report: “How plasmas and neutrals interact across local, regional, and global scales.”
Cubesat Mechanical Design
1. Address open aeronomy science questions
2. Develop and demonstrate new satellite technology
3. Build a community of students and faculty skilled in the art of space systems.
SWARM-EX has successfully completed its Mission Concept Review (July 2020), Preliminary Design Review (February 2021), and Critical Design Review (November 2021). It plans to enter its Pre-Integration Review in August of 2023 with launch scheduled for the Spring of 2024.