Brian Walsh, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in Boston University’s College of Engineering (ENG), plans to develop and launch a small x-ray imaging spacecraft to study the interaction between solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field under a four-year, $2.4 million NASA grant.
The Cusp Plasma Imaging Detector (CuPID) aims to use a wide-field-of-view x-ray telescope to learn how energy from the sun is transferred into the near-Earth space environment. Though astronomers have long used x-ray technology to collect data in space, Walsh’s approach is unique.
“In the past, x-ray telescopes on satellites have had tiny, pencil-beams fields of view, which limited them to only collecting data in their immediate area,” says Walsh. “We have created the first wide-field-of-view x-ray detector, which will allow us to look at the big picture all at once. This will allow us to gain an understanding of the interaction between the sun and the Earth’s magnetic field and will assist in designing future spacecraft that can withstand the harsh space environment.”
Walsh, who is concurrently working on small satellite research with Joshua Semeter, an ENG professor of electrical and computer engineering, will spearhead the project. He anticipates that researchers and students across a variety of disciplines at BU will work together to build the spacecraft while collaborating with partner institutions.
Scheduled for launch in 2019, the mission is being led by Boston University and involves collaborations from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Johns Hopkins University, Drexel University, and Merrimack College.