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This is a targeted, goal-directed, space weather Cubesat mission to resolve the spatial scale size and energy dependence of electron microbursts in the Van Allen radiation belts. Relativistic electron microbursts appear as short durations of intense electron precipitation measured by particle detectors on low altitude spacecraft, seen when their orbits cross magnetic field lines which thread the outer radiation belt.

Previous spacecraft missions (e.g., SAMPEX) have quantified important aspects of microburst properties (e.g., occurrence probabilities), however, some crucial properties (i.e., spatial scale) remain elusive owing to the space-time ambiguity inherent to single spacecraft missions. While microbursts are thought to be a significant loss mechanism for relativestic electrons, they remain poorly understood, thus rendering space weather models of Earth’s radiation belts incomplete. FIREBIRD’s unique two-point, focused observations at low altitudes, that fully exploit the capabilities of the Cubesat platform, willanswer three fundamental scientific questions with space weather implications: What is the spatial scale size of an individual microburst?; What is the energy dependence of an individual microburst?; and How much total electron loss from the radiation belts do microbursts produce globally?

Alternate Names

  • 39463

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2013-12-06
Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Launch Site: Vandenberg AFB, United States
Mass: 2 kg

Funding Agency

  • Unknown (United States)


  • Technology Applications

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Coordinated Request and User Support Office

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