2014.A.2.1 BIRDY : interplanetary CubeSat to Mars to provide observational data at low-risk


Boris Segret (1)
Jordan Vannitsen (2)
Jiun-Jih Miau (2)
Jyh-Ching Juang (2)
Kaiti Wang (2)

  1. LESIA-ESEP, Observatoire de Paris, France
  2. National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan




Space Weather, International collaboration, Mars Manned Missions


BIRDY CubeSat is a contribution in Space Weather monitoring from the interplanetary medium and an opportunity to assess the risks in the manned missions to Mars. Due to the lack of observational data on the way to Mars, large margins have been taken into account to assess the radiations risks for human missions to Mars. Such margins lead to a potentially unjustified conclusion that the risk is too high. Various theoretical models still disagree at energies lower than 100MeV that should result from the difficult understanding of the interactions between the cosmic rays and the solar wind. BIRDY is an interplanetary mission based on a standardized 3-Unit CubeSat (10x10x30cm^3, 4kg). It has involved students in French and Taiwanese universities for one year. More have to join in the future thanks to an original project management. The CubeSat standard serves as a relatively cheap and easy platform to count high-energy particles between 1 and 500MeV/nuc associated with a directional assessment. The measurements are performed all over the journey to Mars and back to the Earth. The mission preparation makes BIRDY compatible with any opportunity of a large mission departing to Mars (typically every 2 years). Once integrated in its deployment container, the CubeSat gets the Delta-V for interplanetary injection as a piggy-back from a host mission to Mars and is jettisoned at the beginning of the journey. Then it operates in full autonomy : zero assistance from the ground, no communication except a status beacon to the VLBI network. The data are only uploaded once in Mars’ vicinity to one of the existing Martian orbiters or rovers, and later at the arrival back to the Earth before crashing into the atmosphere. The CubeSat relies on a tailor-made planet tracking system and a small electrical propulsion to navigate. More widely than to assess the risks for Mars missions, it demonstrates a new way to gather data from multiple locations in the solar system. The project is an educational space mission : it is essentially leaded and designed by students from different educational levels. Then it also demonstrates that a CubeSat is a sense-full low-risk solution to provide the scientific community with high-value new data. The talk will introduce the mission objectives and the mission profile. Some insights on system budgets and engineering options will be given and the original approach in project management will be presented.


  • Download slides in PDF format here (30MB)


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