CU spacecraft to study solar flares |

CU spacecraft to study solar flares

BOULDER – The University of Colorado at Boulder has received $840,000 from the National Science Foundation to build a tiny spacecraft to learn more about solar flares and their effect on Earth’s atmosphere.

The three-year grant will go to CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and the Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department. Graduate students working with the faculty, scientists and engineers will build a 5-pound spacecraft about the size of a loaf of bread.

The instrument package on the Colorado Student Space Weather Experiment will gather data on particles tied to “space weather.” The data will provide information about electrons trapped in the Earth’s magnetosphere, often referred to as “killer electrons” because of their impact on spacecraft subsystems and astronauts in space.

“The Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department has been a leader in the development of hands-on learning at all levels of the curriculum, and this is another big step forward,” said Scott Palo, an aerospace engineering sciences professor and a principal investigator on the project.

Students are expected to start building the spacecraft during the spring semester.

The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics has led many missions with direct student involvement over the past five decades, said Daniel Baker, its director. Most recently, students built and tested the Student Dust Counter currently flying onboard NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto.

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