The CubeSat to Study Solar Particles (CuSP) launched as an Artemis I payload on 1:47 AM EST on Nov. 16, 2022. CuSP was deployed from its canister about eight hours after launch. Approximately two hours after deployment, CuSP transmissions were received by an Open Loop Receiver (OLR) operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Radio Science Systems Group. The OLR recorded approximately 60 minutes of transmission from CuSP. Unfortunately, the CuSP team has not re-established contact with the CubeSat after the initial contact.
In the initial OLR contact (which was listening mode only) CuSP was operating mostly as expected. The solar arrays deployed, and they were stable and pointing at the Sun. However, anomalous software resets and temperature readings were reported during the contact.
NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) provided the mission team a downlink-only pass eight hours after deployment as well as a contact with CuSP 11 hours after deployment. CuSP radio transmissions were not detected during either of these DSN opportunities. No further radio transmissions have been received from CuSP during subsequent scheduled DSN contacts.
During the initial OLR contact period, CuSP experienced three software reboots. One ended during the start of the data collection period, one occurred in the middle of the data collection, and one occurred at the end. However, the OLR signal indicated that CuSP remained powered on after the last reboot.
An unexplained battery anomaly also occurred at the end of the initial data collection period. Two minutes prior to the end of the data collection period, one of the battery cells suddenly experienced a temperature spike – jumping from 34 degrees Celsius to more than 168 degrees Celsius in under a minute. The temperature of the anomalous cell subsequently increased from approximately 34 degrees Celsius to about 80 degrees Celsius before loss of contact.
The CuSP team is investigating the cause of the sudden battery temperature increase and working to find a solution. The team is also working to regain contact with the spacecraft.
CuSP was designed to be one of the first CubeSats to explore interplanetary space, the region around the Sun and planets of our solar system. This CubeSat’s objective is to study the solar wind particles and magnetic fields that stream from the Sun and the relationship of this solar wind to more energetic particles generated by solar activity.
By Denise Hill
NASA Headquarters, Washington