INSPIRESat-1 CubeSat: The Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) recently stated that INSPIRESat-1 CubeSat, which was developed under the International Satellite Program in Research and Education (INSPIRE), is set for launch.
- This small satellite weighs less than 10 kg.
- The satellite equipped with a Compact Ionosphere Probe for studying the earth’s ionosphere will be placed in a low earth orbit.
- It will be launched aboard an upcoming Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
- The onboard computer and electrical power supply of INSPIRESat-1 were designed and developed by students of IIST.
- INSPIRESat-1 is a collaborative effort by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder in the U.S., the National Central University, Taiwan, and the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, apart from the IIST.
- The INSPIRE programme aims to provide a constellation of Earth and Space Weather.
- The ionosphere is where Earth’s atmosphere meets space.
- It is a very active part of the atmosphere, and it grows and shrinks depending on the energy it absorbs from the Sun.
- The name ionosphere comes from the fact that gases in these layers are excited by solar radiation to form ions, which have an electrical charge.
- The ionosphere stretches roughly 50 to 400 miles above Earth’s surface, right at the edge of space.
- Along with the neutral upper atmosphere, the ionosphere forms the boundary between Earth’s lower atmosphere where we live and breathe and the vacuum of space.
Importance of Ionosphere:
- The ionosphere is the part of the atmosphere that is ionized by solar radiation.
- It plays an important role in atmospheric electricity and forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere.
- It has practical importance because, among other functions, it influences radio propagation to distant places on the Earth.
- GPS and Radio signals travel through this layer of the atmosphere or rely on bouncing off the ionosphere to reach their destinations.
- However, in both cases, changes in the ionosphere’s density and composition can disrupt these signals.
- This boundary to space is right where many of our Earth-orbiting satellites hang out, including the International Space Station.
- That means these satellites can be affected by the constantly changing conditions in the ionosphere — including sudden swells of charged particles that increase the drag on satellites and shorten their orbital lifetimes, or how long they can continue orbiting Earth.