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GRIFEX Technology Validation CubeSat Launched with SMAP
Philip Larkin, February 2015,


The GEO-CAPE Readout Integrated Circuit Experiment (GRIFEX) CubeSat was launched from Vandenberg AFB on Saturday, January 31, as an auxiliary payload to the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission.

GRIFEX is a 3-unit (3U, 10x10x30cm) CubeSat intended to verify the spaceborne performance of a state-of-the-art readout integrated circuit (ROIC) / Focal Plane Array (FPA) with in-pixel digitization and an unprecedented frame rate of 16 kHz for imaging interferometry instruments and missions. The technology specifically targets the requirements of the GEOstationary Coastal and Air Pollution Events (GEO-CAPE) mission concept, and the ROIC is based on a 2008 ESTO Advanced Component Technology (ACT) investment. Once validated, this technology could enable a mission like GEO-CAPE to make hourly high spatial and spectral resolution measurements of rapidly changing atmospheric chemistry and pollution from geostationary Earth orbit.

GRIFEX was released into space by a Poly-PicoSatellite Orbital Deployer (or P-Pod) mounted on the upper stage of the Delta II rocket about 107 minutes after launch. Amateur radio collaborators in Europe were the first to detect the GRIFEX signal beacon about two hours later. The GRIFEX team, led by David Rider at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and James Cutler at the University of Michigan, has reported that preliminary indications point to a healthy spacecraft.


At right: the GRIFEX cubesat in the lab.
Below right: the bottom of the 3U CubeSat showing the camera port.
Below: the GRIFEX CubeSat is loaded into its Poly-PicoSatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD) deployment mechanism.
(Images credit: U. Mich.)

For more information on emerging technologies for Earth science, visit the NASA Earth Science Technology Office website.