A core part of the MXL effort is the development of novel flight vehicles and missions. We fly what we build, and build what we research. Below, we describe missions that are in operation, in development, in concept, and complete. We have six satellites on orbit and have delivered parts for several others.
GRIFEX is the GEO-CAPE ROIC In-Flight Performance Experiment, a 3U CubeSat deployed to flight test novel imaging technology. It is a partnership between NASA ESTO, JPL, and MXL. GRIFEX was launched on 31 January 2015. It has completed its primary mission and is currently demo’ing secondary technologies and is being used to train students.
MCubed, the Michigan Multipurpose Minisat is a joint mission between MXL and JPL. Two satellites were funded by NASA ESTO to perform flight validation of a flight processor board carrying the Xilinx Virtex-5QV XQR5VX130T FPGA processor. MCubed-1 is operationally limited due to its docked status with the E1P CubeSat. MCubed-2 is fully operational and has completed its primary mission. It is currently an operations training satellite and technology testbed for MXL.
Project Strato is the high-altitude balloon team of MXL. Based in Ann Arbor, we fly a variety of tech development and training missions.
TBEx, the Tandem Beacon Experiment (TBEx), consists of a tandem pair of CubeSats, each carrying tri-frequency radio beacons, in near identical, low inclination orbits and a cluster of diagnostic sensors on five islands in the Central Pacific sector. The science objectives and goals of TBEx are to study how the dynamics and processes in the troposphere can act to cause variability in the behavior of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. TBEx is developed by SRI International and MXL with funding from NASA.
MARIO (Measurement of Actuator Response and Impedance on Orbit) is a 3U CubeSat collaboration between MXL, Extreme Diagnostics, Michigan’s Active Intelligent and Multifunctional Structure (AIMS) Lab, and NASA. The mission objective is to characterize the performance of piezoelectric actuators and health monitoring systems in low Earth orbit conditions. Test data will help develop future advanced space mechanisms.
CADRE, the CubeSat-investigating Atmospheric Density Response to Extreme driving, was a 3U CubeSat funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The science PI was Dr. Aaron Ridley, and the mission’s goal was to study the ionosphere. CADRE was deployed from ISS as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative in May 2016. The mission failed on orbit before mission goals could be achieved. Details are TBD.
The Radio Aurora Explorer (RAX) was the first NSF-funded CubeSat and the first mission developed at MXL. The science PI was Dr. Hasan Bahcivan from SRI International. Details are TBD.
PATRIOT was a 3U CubeSat concept, the Plasma Ambipolar Thruster for Rapid In-Orbit Transfers. Its primary mission was to flight test the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT) plasma source/engine in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). However, CAT development migrated from the University of Michigan to Phase Four and the PATRIOT mission is being repurposed for other technology demonstrations.
INSPIRE, the Interplanetary NanoSpacecraft Pathfinder In Relevant Environment, (INSPIRE), will demonstrate the revolutionary capability of deep space CubeSats by placing a nanosatellite in Earth-escape orbit. INSPIRE is funded by NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) as a collaboration between the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Polytechnic-San Luis Obispo (CalPoly), Goldstone-Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Michigan (UMich), and University of Texas-Austin (UTexas). MXL developed the power system, one of the solar panels, and the flight computer. INSPIRE is complete and awaiting a launch.
Mars Cube One (or MarCO) is a Mars flyby mission consisting of two nanosatellites (6U CubeSats), that is scheduled to launch in 2018 or later alongside NASA’s InSight Mars lander mission. MarcO will provide a communications link to Earth for InSight during mission-critical entry, descent, and landing when InSight will be out of sight from the Earth. MXL provided a power system and a flight computer for the MarCO satellites.