The Space Shuttle Atlantis in its final flight deployed a 4-kilogram nanosatellite built by Los Angeles-based Aerospace Corp. that will demonstrate technologies for an upcoming experimental U.S. Air Force space weather mission, the Aerospace Corp. announced July 21.

The diminutive Pico Satellite Solar Cell Testbed 2 satellite — measuring 12 centimeters by 12 centimeters by 25 centimeters — will use an atmospheric observation technique called GPS radio occultation to study the ionosphere, a press release said. It also carries next-generation solar cells built by the two primary U.S. satellite photovoltaic firms, Spectrolab of Sylmar, Calif., and Emcore of Albuquerque, N.M.

The nanosatellite mission was coordinated by the Air Force Space Test Program’s Human Space Flight Payloads Office. It will serve as a precursor to the Space Environmental Monitoring Nanosat Experiment, a pair of small satellites built by Boeing Phantom Works of St. Louis planned for launch in mid-2012.