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RAX 1, 2

RAX [UMich]

RAX 2 [UMich]

RAX (Radio Aurora Explorer) is a student-built nanosatellite for ionospheric research. It is built on a triple CubeSat structure.

The RAX will measure the energy flow in the ionosphere, the highest part of Earth's atmosphere where solar radiation turns regular atoms into charged particles.

RAX is a Ground-to-Space Bistatic Radar Experiment. The RAX satellite will act as a receiver that will pick up signals from a ground radar transmitter. These radar pulses will reflect off disturbances, or space weather phenomena, in the ionosphere.

RAX 1 was launched in 2010 as a piggy-back payload on a Minotaur-4 HAPS launch vehicle. It suffered from an anomaly on the solar panels, which resulted in degradation of power generation until, after several months, RAX-1 was unable to generate power. This anomaly ultimately resulted in the premature end of the mission. Despite this early end, the RAX-1 mission still made great strides in CubeSat design, and was able to execute bistatic radar measurements that had never before been performed with a CubeSat. All other subsystems also performed well.

The team was applying the lessons learned from RAX-1 to the design of a second flight unit, RAX-2, which was launched on a Delta-7920-10C through the NASA Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa-3) program in October 2011.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Ionospheric research
Operator: SRI International, University of Michigan
Contractors: SRI International, University of Michigan, Pumpkin, Inc. (bus)
Configuration: CubeSat (3U)
Propulsion: None
Power: Solar cells, batteries
Mass: 3 kg
Orbit: 641 km × 652 km, 72
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
RAX 1 (USA 218) 2010-062B 20.11.2010 Kd LP-1 Minotaur-4 HAPS with STPSat 2, FASTRAC 1, FASTRAC 2, FalconSat 5, FASTSat-HSV 01, O/OREOS, NanoSail-D2, Ballast A, Ballast B
RAX 2 2011-061D 28.10.2011 Va SLC-2W Delta-7920-10C with NPP, DICE 1, DICE 2, AubieSat 1, M-Cubed/COVE, E1P U2


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