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The OPAL (Oxygen Photometry of the Atmospheric Limb) is a 3U CubeSat mission developed at the USU/SDL (Utah State University / Space Dynamics Laboratory). The objective of the is to understand the thermospheric temperature signatures of the dynamic solar, geomagnetic and internal atmospheric forcing.

The satellite is built on a NRO supplied Colony II 3U-CubeSat built by Boeing.

The on-board instrument is a high resolution imaging spectrometer to simultaneously collect spatially-resolved A-band spectra in multiple azimuthal directions and across the full altitude range of A-band emission. It is a grating-based imaging spectrometer with refractive optics and a high-efficiency Volume Holographic Grating. The optical path is folded into three legs, each about 80 mm long. Sampling occurs by 7 parallel slits that form non-overlapping spectral profiles at the focal plane with a resolution of 0.5 nm (spectral), 1.5 km (limb profiling), and 60 km (horizontal sampling).

It was selected in 2014 by NASA to be launched as part of the ELaNa program. It is baselined to hitch a ride on a resupply craft headed for the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016, where it will be deployed in a high-inclination orbit similar to the station’s orbital path.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Experimental
Operator: Space Dynamics Laboratory
Contractors: Space Dynamics Laboratory, Boeing (bus)
Configuration: CubeSat (3U)
Propulsion: None
Power: Deployable solar arrays, batteries
Mass: 5 kg
Orbit: 400 km × 400 km, 51.6° (typical)
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
OPAL - 2017 CC Falcon-9 v1.2 with Dragon CRS-12, CREAM, ASTERIA, LAICE, RBLE, OSIRIS-3U, HARP, OPEN, Overview 1A