Radar in a CubeSat
About The Mission
RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat) was a technology demonstration mission to enable Ka-band precipitation radar technologies on a low-cost, quick-turnaround platform. This mission demonstrated the first active radar on a CubeSat. Sponsored by NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) through the InVEST-15 program, NASA/JPL developed a 35.75 GHz radar payload to operate within the 6U CubeSat form factor. The spacecraft was built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite, Inc., a Terran Orbital Corporation, and featured novel avionics and bus subsystems that extended the original 3-month mission to 29 months. This mission validated a new architecture for Ka-band radars, featuring an ultra-compact lightweight deployable parabolic reflector Ka-band antenna. This success raised the technology readiness level (TRL) of the radar and antenna from 4 to 7 within the three year life of the program.
The project completed integration and testing in February 2018 and was delivered in March 2018. RainCube was delivered to the ISS on the OA-9 resupply mission that launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on May 21, 2018. After deploying from the ISS on July 13, 2018, RainCube performed nominally until beginning de-orbit on December 24, 2020.