The FIREBIRD-II CubeSat mission: Focused investigations of relativistic electron burst intensity, range, and dynamics


FIREBIRD-II is a National Science Foundation funded CubeSat mission designed to study the scale size and energy spectrum of relativistic electron microbursts. The mission consists of two identical 1.5 U CubeSats in a low earth polar orbit, each with two solid state detectors that differ only in the size of their geometric factors and fields of view. Having two spacecraft in close orbit allows the scale size of microbursts to be investigated through the intra-spacecraft separation when microbursts are observed simultaneously on each unit. Each detector returns high cadence (10 s of ms) measurements of the electron population from 200 keV to >1 MeV across six energy channels. The energy channels were selected to fill a gap in the observations of the Heavy Ion Large Telescope instrument on the Solar, Anomalous, and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer. FIREBIRD-II has been in orbit for 5 years and continues to return high quality data. After the first month in orbit, the spacecraft had separated beyond the expected scale size of microbursts, so the focus has shifted toward conjunctions with other magnetospheric missions. FIREBIRD-II has addressed all of its primary science objectives, and its long lifetime and focus on conjunctions has enabled additional science beyond the scope of the original mission. This paper presents a brief history of the FIREBIRD mission’s science goals, followed by a description of the instrument and spacecraft. The data products are then discussed along with some caveats necessary for proper use of the data.




Johnson, A. T., M. Shumko, B. Griffith, D. M. Klumpar, J. Sample, L. Springer, N. Leh, et al. “The FIREBIRD-II CubeSat Mission: Focused Investigations of Relativistic Electron Burst Intensity, Range, and Dynamics.” Review of Scientific Instruments 91, no. 3 (March 1, 2020): 034503. doi:10.1063/1.5137905.
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