One of the AeroCube-10 cubesats undergoes testing in Aerospace Corp.'s solar simulator laboratory in El Segundo, Calif. Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

LOGAN, Utah – The Aerospace Corp.’s two-satellite AeroCube 10 mission was released from the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft Aug. 7 packed with sensors and experiments to study Earth’s atmosphere, prepare for satellite proximity operations and measure the degradation of solar cells in orbit.

“At Aerospace, we are never satisfied doing one thing at a time,” Joseph Gangestad, Enterprise Engineering and Technical Futures Department associate systems director, told SpaceNews.

One AeroCube 10 experiment is designed to reveal variations in Earth’s atmosphere. The cubesats contain 28 “Falling Stars,” thin plates of aluminum held together with springs. Once they leave the cubesats, the probes will take on a spherical shape and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere within weeks. Aerospace researchers will rely on the U.S. Space Surveillance Network to track the probes falling through the atmosphere.

“We’ll be able to study how the atmosphere changes as a function of time particularly in those lower altitudes,” said Gangestad.

Aerocube 10 researchers also are investigating the impact of radiation on solar cells. The AeroCube 10 satellites contain a group of solar cells with radiation shields of varying thickness as well as dosimeters and micro charged particle telescopes.

“This is part of a long series of experiments studying the impact of radiation on solar cells,” said Catherine Venturini, a senior project leader in Aerospace’s Science and Technology Strategy and Development department.

In addition, Aerospace is continuing to experiment with the type of water vapor thrusters first flown on Aerocube 7 in 2015. Thrusters onboard the AeroCube 10 cubesats are similar but Aerospace engineers modified the design to make them more efficient, said Darren Rowen, Aerospace Small Satellite Department director.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...