RainCube: First Radar In A CubeSat - From Concept To Mission
Presenting Author: Shivani S Joshi
Organization: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
Co-Author(s): Eva Peral, Shannon Statham, Simone Tanelli, Shivani Joshi, Travis Imken, Douglas Price, Jonathan Sauder, and Nacer Chahat – Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Austin Williams – Tyvak Nano Satellite Systems, Inc
RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat) is the first active radar instrument in a CubeSat platform to operate in Low Earth Orbit. RainCube is funded through the Science Mission Directorate’s (SMD) Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES) 2015 In-Space Validation of Earth Science Technologies (InVEST) solicitation with the goal of raising the instrument TRL from entry 4-5 to exit 7. RainCube was launched to the ISS as part of ELaNa-23 on May 21, 2018 and was deployed in orbit on July 13, 2018. The 6U CubeSat currently in low Earth orbit features a radar payload built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and a spacecraft bus and operations provided by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems. In its first two months of operations RainCube met its primary mission requirements by validating two key technologies in space environment, a miniaturized Ka-band precipitation profiling radar that occupies a 2.5U volume and a 0.5m Ka-band parabolic deployable antenna that stows in a 1.5U volume. Following the deployment of the half-meter parabolic antenna, the radar first observed rainfall over Mexico. The mission continues to operate and is currently in its second extended mission phase.