Get Stratus to Space!

Institution: Michigan Technological University
Funders (14)
Views (2)

Why This Project Is Important 

Stratus is a shoe-box sized satellite that uses a thermal imager to measure cloud motion from low-Earth orbit. For over five years, the spacecraft has allowed 200+ undergraduate Michigan Tech students to learn about the design, assembly, and operation processes of small satellites. We now need additional funding to overcome hurdles encountered during the integration process and to build the flight vehicle.

Project Description 

Mission Statement: "The Stratus mission shall demonstrate an inexpensive, upwardly scalable architecture capable of imaging clouds in the infrared spectrum." The goal of the Stratus mission is to build, deploy, and demonstrate a low-cost CubeSat platform capable of measuring cloud properties. The Stratus mission utilizes a thermal imaging camera to discern Cloud Fraction (CF), which is the amount of cloud coverage per pixel. These Measurements of cloud coverage are crucial for understanding the heat transfer in Earth’s atmosphere, which can be used to produce reliable projections of climate change. Current satellite missions that perform similar tasks do so with spacecraft that are significantly larger in size, higher in price, and restricted in coverage. The Stratus mission will be conducted using a 3U CubeSat, which is comparable in size to a loaf of bread and weighs significantly less than spacecraft used in similar missions. Stratus will also serve as a pathfinder mission, demonstrating the capabilities of a CubeSat form factor to pave the way for future proliferated missions/constellations. The Stratus program has been funded by a (now expired) NASA research contract. During final testing and assembly of the spacecraft, multiple flight components were identified as faulty which halted mission progress. Moving forward, the team will be redesigning aspects of the spacecraft leveraging new and existing knowledge in the program. The Aerospace Enterprise is asking for $250,000 to replace malfunctioning hardware and ensure mission success.

Meet the Researchers

L. Brad King

Dr. King is an experimentalist interested in studying electric space propulsion systems, including Hall-effect thrusters, ion engines, and arcjets. By utilizing strong electromagnetic forces to accelerate an ionized plasma propellant, electric thrusters take advantage of on-orbit solar power generation to enjoy significant fuel savings over traditional chemical rockets. King's research experience in the broader field of plasma physics includes such diverse subjects as the design of the in-situ electrostatic probes, ion-energy analysis and time-of-flight mass spectrometry, Doppler laser cooling of trapped ions, optical flow diagnostics, and antimatter confinement.

Nolan Pickett

Nolan Pickett is the acting Program Manager of the Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise and is primarily responsible for project schedules, personnel management, and program logistics. He's a 4th year Mechanical Engineering student at Michigan Tech with minors in Aerospace Engineering and Business. He has previously interned for Plexus Corp. as an Automation Engineer and LaFarge Holcim as a Maintenance Engineer. Nolan hopes to complete a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering and pursue a position in the aerospace industry upon graduation.

Kyle Bruursema

Kyle Bruursema is currently the acting Chief Engineer of the Aerospace Enterprise at Michigan Technological university. In this role he manages the requirements and testing necessary for a successful mission. Kyle is currently a 3rd year Mechanical and Electrical engineering student. He is pursuing fields in the aerospace industry and hopes to tackle a masters degree in pursuit of advancing his knowledge in the field.

Questions for the Researcher

callahan's picture
Janet Callahan  December 11, 2021 - 5:56pm
Very excited about this project, and extremely proud of the Aerospace Enterprise. Let's build this. Go Stratus!
Ralph Larson's picture
Ralph Larson  February 25, 2022 - 4:47pm
Does anyone know a way to get in touch with everyone that was in the L5 Chapter at MTU in the late 70s early 80s and see if we can pool together to help fund this project? There was also the PFRC which brought some fairly decent speakers to campus such as Ben Bova. I think that might be another group that could and should be challenged to help make this opportunity happen!
NatashaChopp's picture
Natasha Chopp  March 1, 2022 - 12:36pm
Thank you Ralph for that suggestion! I checked with the Advancement Services Department on campus and unfortunately they are unable to pull that information.

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of $250,000 fund goal
The average donation for this project is $15906
days left
Funding is Closed

What Your Donation Can Help Us Do: 

  • Purchase components that will be used in space!
  • Support testing on the ground to ensure the spacecraft works properly
  • Update and maintain facilities used for spacecraft development, testing, and integration
  • Allow MTU undergraduate students to fly and operate a satellite from campus

$2,000 (5/100)

Name engraved on a plate mounted inside of the spacecraft

Donors who give $2,000 or more will have their names engraved on a small plate that will be installed into the interior of the spacecraft. Help us reach our goal and see your name on a satellite!

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