The U.S. Navy's Naval Research Laboratory has selected Blue Canyon Technologies to provide a pair of nanosatellites for NRL's joint mission with the U.K. ministry of defense to study the ionosphere and radiation environment in space from different vantage points.
BCT said Thursday it will equip each six-unit CubeSat with two ultraviolet photometers from NRL to gauge ionospheric structure and airglow from low-Earth orbit as part of the Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment.
The U.K. defense science and technology laboratory will provide ion and neutral mass spectrometer, GPS receiver and compact radiation sensor payloads for each satellite, the company added.
“The structure and density of the ionosphere can vary quite a bit, day-to-day, depending on what the Sun is doing," said Matt Pallas, manager of the CIRCE program at BCT.
"Since space weather affects satellite communications and radar, a thorough understanding of the environment is essential to commonly used satellite infrastructure like GPS and communications systems," Pallas added.
The ionosphere is an upper layer of Earth's atmosphere that serves as a protective shield and is located 31 to 621 miles above the planet.
NRL and MOD aim to launch the mission in March 2020.