Special Astrophysics/Space Physics Seminar - Christopher S. Moore, Ph.D., Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
"Big Science of the Solar Corona with SmallSats and CubeSats: The MinXSS CubeSats, SSXDI CubeSat and SSAXI SmallSat" by Christopher S. Moore, Ph.D., Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA
Abstract: A few years ago the scientific community was unsure if science oriented CubeSats were a viable avenue to obtain scientifically relevant data. Since, there have been more and more CubeSats returning useful science data as a low-cost alternative to rapidly fill observations gaps, that large missions are currently missing. This talk will focus on the first twin solar science oriented CubeSats flown for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, the Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS) CubeSats, and future CubeSat and SmallSat payloads. Detection of soft X-rays (sxr) from the Sun provide direct information on coronal plasma at temperatures in excess of ~1 MK, but there have been relatively few solar spectrally resolved measurements from 0.5 – 10. keV. MinXSS-1 was launched in December 2015 for a 1-year mission and has provided measurements from 0.8 -12 keV, with resolving power ~40 at 5.9 keV, at a nominal ~10 second time cadence. MinXSS-1 measurements have proven to be consistent with numerous solar spacecraft observations. MinXSS-2 was launched in December 2018 for improved measurements and at least a 4-year mission. Both MinXSS CubeSats spatially integrate the signal over the field of view, losing spatial information. New technology advances have allowed the development of Miniature X-ray Optics (MiXO) and high speed readout monolithic CMOS detectors, which can be combined to enable solar spectral imaging from 0.6 – 6 keV. Both technologies have pending 2018 NASA HTides proposals for further advancement and implementation on future CubeSats and SmallSats. The Solar Soft X-ray Dynamic Imager (SSXDI) CubeSat is designed for high contrast intensity imaging and high time cadence measurements to investigate the dynamics of large solar flares. The SmallSat Solar Activity X-ray Imager (SSAXI) payload is designed to constrain various components of coronal heating in the Quiet Sun (QS), Active Region (ARs), and microflares (GOES A and sub A level events). Furthermore, the spectral resolution (resolving power ~10 – 40) will allow determination of Fe, Mg, Ca, Si, S, O, and Ar abundances. The solar science prospects both instruments will be discussed in this talk as well as the proposed missions’ timelines.