2015.A.4.4. On the suitability of CubeSats on Earth orbits for radiation testing of interplanetary payloads


Friederike Wolff (1)
Birgit Ritter (2)
Stas Barabash (2)

  1. Luleå University of Technology, Sweden
  2. Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Sweden




SPENVIS, Space Environment, Verification, Radiation, Simulation, GRAS


One of the challenges faced when designing instruments for interplanetary missions is the radiation environment that will be encountered. The effects of this radiation are twofold: the total energy deposited by energetic particles in electronic components can result in transient or permanent damage. Energetic particles penetrating sensor heads result in background counts in detectors such as micro-channel plates or channel electron multipliers, thereby reducing the signal-to-noise ratio. Critical components, subsystems and whole instruments that are relatively small can be accommodated on CubeSats, flown in orbits around Earth and be tested there for their response to the terrestrial radiation belts. Although the fluxes and energies in low Earth orbit (LEO) are small on average, satellites in high-inclination orbits pass through the horns of the radiation belts, thereby being exposed mostly to relativistic electrons and protons. This paper gives an introduction to the radiation environment of typical low Earth orbits and elaborates on the suitability of CubeSats in such orbits as a test-bed for interplanetary missions. The goal of the J³ mission (Jupiter CubeSat) is presented as a case study: this CubeSat is designed to carry a micro-channel plate, a channel electron multiplier and a semiconductor detector and serves as a flight test for a detector subsystem for a particle instrument flying on ESA’s Jupiter and Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE) mission. The radiation spectra in Earth orbit will be compared to those expected during the science phase of the JUICE mission.


  • Download slides in PDF format here (8MB)


  • Download paper in PDF format here (4MB)

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