Mission

BUSAT is a comprehensive, integrated satellite project proposed by Boston University (Boston, MA) involving graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty in response to the AFOSR University Nanosat Program (AFOSR BAA 2006-06, Modification 1). The central BUSAT mission objectives are to:

1.  significantly involve students in the design, fabrication, and operation of a lowearth- orbiting small satellite and its instrumentation (hereinafter referred to as the Boston University Student-satellite for Applications and Training or BUSAT);
2.   develop a practical and useful ground operational facility (hereinafter referred to as BU CENTRAL) where students will be trained in spacecraft operations, data handling and analysis, and space weather forecasting;
3.   test the Auroral Specification and Forecast Model (ASFM), being developed within the graduate program of the Department of Electrical and Computer 4.   Engineering (ECE) at Boston University, which will reside and be run at BU CENTRAL using inputs derived from data obtained by BUSAT;
interface these efforts into an existing program within Boston University involving the Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling (CISM).

    The motivation for the BUSAT instrumentation and mission profile is space weather forecasting. This is a timely topic and its importance has recently been recognized internationally. Forecasting, when it achieves sufficient reliability and accuracy, has the potential of guarding against on the order of $100M/yr in assets susceptible to space weather effects. Improved capabilities would lead to considerable savings for geostationary and low-altitude satellites, and ground-based power stations and communication systems. To that end, several US federal agencies are coordinating efforts to address this issue which has become one of national policy; and has led the National Science Foundation to establish a Center for Excellence headquartered at Boston University to develop space environment models and forecast techniques in the form of the Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling.

    The BUSAT mission, a student nanosatellite, and BU CENTRAL, will acquire energetic electron data at high latitudes and will simultaneously acquire optical images of auroral arcs from horizon to horizon. This mission concept will be designed principally by BU students. These students will form instrument and science teams which will have responsibility to produce operational instrument hardware. The BUSAT program integrates many aspects important to space physics, from instrument design to basic plasma physics to environmental phenomenology to applications and commercial payoff, that it can easily become the centerpiece for both classroom instruction and graduate research topics.

    The BUSAT management concept fosters a strong link between the aforementioned student teams and their faculty mentors. The faculty mentors range from senior to junior status thus providing the important cross-generation ties which are critical to the vitality of any technical discipline. For example, the principal investigator (Professor Fritz) brings to the project almost 40 years of experience in spacecraft and instrument design. He has been PI or co-I on numerous instruments flown on both rocket and satellite programs, ranging from the University of Iowa Injun-3 satellite to the joint NASA/European Space Agency four satellite Cluster mission. He is presently responsible for the development of a Loss Cone Imager energetic particle experiment for the US Air Force Demonstration and Science Experiment (DSX) satellite program taking place at Boston University using an instrument development team of undergraduate and graduate students. He will be the overall BUSAT technical project leader.

    Two entry-level professionals should also be noted. Mr. David Voss, a graduate student in the 2 ECE department, has considerable experience while an undergraduate student at Taylor University in Upland, IN in designing, building and flying satellite and balloon instrumentation, and integrating entire spacecraft payloads both on budget and against oftentimes tight delivery schedules. The concept being proposed for BUSAT relies on the modular design that was developed at Taylor University over previous cycles of the AFOSR University Nanosat Program. Mr. Matt Zettergren, also a graduate student in the ECE department, is developing the Auroral Specification and Forecast Model (ASFM) as the major thrust of the research being done for his PhD thesis research. The ASFM uses ground-based optical and radar data to characterize auroral forms and to predict the incident electron energy spectrum responsible for the auroral emissions. BUSAT will provide the measurement of the incident electron energy spectrum needed to assess the effectiveness of the ASFM model and verify its predictive extension to low-altitudes and the ground.

    BUSAT utilizes tested concepts of nanosat spacecraft design using modular stackable four-inch cube designs developed at Taylor University in Upland, IN. The payload consists of four advanced, stateof- the-art and mature scientific instruments: (1) a high-resolution, high-dynamic range magnetometer, (2) an optical and UV auroral imager, (3) a low-to-medium energy electron imaging spectrometer; (4) a plasma probe and VLF receiver. The satellite will be in a near-polar, preferably sun-synchronous orbit (approximately in the noon-midnight meridian) at low altitudes (300 – 2000 km). BUSAT will have a permanent dipole magnet with active control to align its orientation along the local magnetic field direction; spacecraft azimuth will be determined by an array of optical sun sensors.

    BU CENTRAL will be located within the Boston University Center for Space Physics and will serve as the spacecraft operational center, data handling/distribution center, and operational analysis forecast center where the ASFM will be run. Specifically, within BU CENTRAL we will test the lowaltitude performance of the ASFM (through comparison with BUSAT data), design and test operational algorithms to forecast ground-induced currents, and investigate the forecast prospects.