The primary mission of AggieSat6 (AGS6) is to demonstrate the functionality of a space-based radiofrequency array device for the Space Domain Awareness (SDA) application of satellite position and orbit determination.
The secondary mission is to sample the low-energy electron radiation enviroment on Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to enhance existing radiation models.
AggieSat6 is a proof of concept mission that will advance a critical aspect of space operations that the Department of Defense (DoD) calls Space Domain Awareness (SDA). SDA is improved by tracking the position and determining the orbits of objects in space. The DoD relies on ground-based systems to do that, but AGS6 will attempt to track objects in space, from space. The primary payload is an array of antennas that will detect signals emitted from a target satellite in space, which for the purposes of this mission will be any given satellite in the Iridium constellation. The signal data collected by AGS6 will be downlinked to the ground and processed with the MUSIC algorithm. MUSIC compares the phase differences between the different antennas and computes a position vector pointing from AGS6 to the emitting satellite. This results in the ability of AggieSat6 to track the position of the target satellite from space. By taking multiple of these measurements, AGS6 will be able to characterize the orbits of the Iridium satellites it listens to. AggieSat6 will also carry a dosimeter, which it will use to sample the low-energy electron radiation environment on LEO. These sample data will be downlinked to the ground and used to enhance existing space radiation models.
The AggieSat6 mission is in Phase B of the University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) NS-10 as of 13 August 2021. Check out the AGS6 team page to meet the students currently building and testing the AggieSat6 system.