NOAA adopts the Finnish CubeSat space weather observation


NOAA adopts the Finnish CubeSat space weather observation

The two-unit Sunstorm CubeSat carries the X-ray Flux Monitor, used to monitor the X-ray flares associated with the coronal mass ejection, a primary driver of space weather. The XFM aperture can be seen in the black bottom right corner of the front of the CubeSat as it is pointed toward the viewer. Credit: Kuva Space

The space-tested advanced X-ray monitoring instrument aboard ESA CubeSat will serve as an operational space weather payload on the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Next Lagrange 1 Series satellite, currently planned for launch in 2028, which will operate 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. Observing eruptions from our sun.

The X-ray flux monitor, made in Finland, was launched aboard the Sunstorm CubeSat — about the size of a large, thick paperback book — by a Vega rocket in Europe in August last year.

Since then, this stripped-down version of the wide-field XFM instrument, formally known as XFM-CS, has collected more than a year’s worth of data, spotting hundreds of X-ray flares, dozens of which are associated with a coronal mass event. Output (CMEs). Coronal mass ejections are huge explosions that eject up to a billion tons of coronal plasma from the Sun at one time, causing a condensation of solar wind They are the main drivers for outer space weather.

“Solar X-ray monitoring has been done in space for a long time, but the instruments are broadband flux monitors, which measure the total intensity of the X-ray flares,” explains Juhani Huovelin, inventor of the XFM concept, of Finnish company Isaware. .

Our XFM design is different because it also breaks flare into coil energy spectrumproviding valuable information on important, still unexplained questions about the relationship between Solar flares and CMEs. Our Sunstorm experience shows that it can accurately measure the spectra of very powerful flares, but it’s also sensitive enough to detect the X-ray spectrum of an almost calm Sun.”

A Coronal Large Mass Ejection (CME) was recorded by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) on August 30, 2022. The CME struck the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft as it was performing a flyby of Venus. Credit: ESA/NASA SOHO

CubeSats are nanosatellites with designs based on standard 10 cc elements. Used by the European Space Agency (ESA) to provide early flight tests of innovative European technology, through the Fly component of the General Support Technology Program (GSTP).

“Sunstorm shows the value of an on-orbit demonstration,” comments Camille Berat of the European Space Agency’s CubeSat Systems Unit. “Its flight experience has demonstrated that the XFM is capable of operating in space and is able to meet stated performance specifications, helping the full-size version of the device earn a berth with NOAA, while simultaneously producing high-quality science data.”

The full version of the XFM is about four times larger than the XFM-CS, with redundant detectors and enlarged observation apertures. Yohani adds: “This instrument needs to meet operational performance requirements, which means it must continue to provide data on a second-by-second basis. The XFM-CS is in low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 550 km, and about half of that orbit loses sight of the Sun, but the Moon The NOAA Space Weather satellite will be positioned at Lagrangian Point 1 of the Sun-Earth system in deep space, with nothing blocking XFM’s view of the Sun.

“The XFM-CS is also shielded from space radiation by the Earth’s magnetic field, so we were able to use commercial components that are cheaper off the shelf. A full-sized instrument needs parts that will perform and maintain their performance in the harsh radiation environment of deep space. “

NOAA adopts the Finnish CubeSat space weather observation

Class M X-ray flares measured by Sunstorm/XFM-CS compared to current NOAA/GOES (lighter shade: XFM-CS with 1-second resolution; darker shade: XFM-CS with 60-second resolution; darker shade: GOES/XRS data): ESA

The XFM concept incorporates new silicon drift detector technology that evolved from silicon-based technology applied to astrophysical research three decades earlier by members of the same Finnish team. Previous versions have flown aboard the European Space Agency’s Smart-1 mission to the moon — which was subjected to the “great solar Halloween storms” of 2003 during its journey to lunar orbit — and aboard the BepiColombo mission to Mercury, where the Finnish SIXS instrument will measure solar X – Rays and particles to calibrate the X-rays emitted from the planet’s surface.

Sunstorm itself continues operations, notes Janne Kuhno of Kuva Space, Sunstorm’s manufacturer: “We put together the platform that holds the instrument together pretty quickly. It has to be pointed at the sun of course – and balancing that requirement with the thermal management of such a small platform is a bit of a challenge – But Sunstorm is doing quite well, as evidenced by the amount of science-level data it produces. Having demonstrated this capability, with the help of ESA’s GSTP, we hope to continue contributing to the next generation of space weather monitoring, building the Finnish space sector of the future.”

XFM was developed by ISAWARE together with Aboa Space Research Oy, Oxford Instruments Technologies and Talvioja Consulting.

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