QB50: Can miniaturised sensors on CubeSats be used as Space Weather balloons to monitor the lower thermosphere?
Last summer 2017, the QB50 mission launched 36 CubeSats to altitudes of 450 – 550km. International teams of student space engineers built the CubeSats to carry miniaturised sensors to measure the density and chemical composition of the atmosphere. The CubeSats are currently in decaying orbits and will make the first ever multi-point, in-situ, measurements of the lower thermosphere before they burn up. They project student will be involved in coordinating with the CubeSat teams to collate data, analyse, cross-calibrate with radar and other satellite data, as well as compare with a global circulation model of the upper atmosphere. Thus the student will learn about remote sensing, atmospheric modelling and teamwork with international space scientists and engineers. The aim is to quantify the accuracy of novel miniaturised sensors on CubeSats, which are cheap enough to be launched regularly into decaying orbits, thereby acting as ‘Space Weather balloons”, as is done for meteorology.