Military Embedded Systems

CubeSats from Navy Research Lab, U.K. defense ministry collab to conduct radiation experiments


June 07, 2022

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

U.S. Navy Research Lab image

WASHINGTON. A joint experiment between the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the U.K. Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is preparing to launch into space to measure Earth’s ionosphere and particle radiation environment as part of the Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment (CIRCE) mission.

Space Systems Command -- a field command of the U.S. Space Force -- is collaborating with Virgin Orbit National Systems to launch the CIRCE, which contains twin 6U CubeSats that will fly in a circular orbit at an altitude of 555 km (344 miles) that will carry instruments including an ion/neutral mass spectrometer, a tri-band GPS receiver for ionospheric remote sensing, and a radiation environment monitor. 

Andrew Nicholas, CIRCE’s principal investigator, gave details of the CIRCE mission, saying that the CubeSats are the size of a shoebox and the teams have managed to "sandwich five sensors in each of them. So they are very compact and pretty laden with technology and it is all really tightly integrated in there.”

CIRCE is scheduled to launch during the U.K.'s first commercial foray into space, intended to depart from Spaceport Cornwall located at Newquay Airport in Cornwall, England later this summer.

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