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Utah State University helps NASA with space exploration

Apr 21, 2022, 3:05 PM | Updated: May 13, 2022, 2:27 pm
This Sept. 24, 2020 photo shows the major parts of the IRIS radio that the Space Dynamics Laborator...
This Sept. 24, 2020 photo shows the major parts of the IRIS radio that the Space Dynamics Laboratory built. Photo credit: Allison Bills/Space Dynamics Laboratory.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Space Dynamics Laboratory, SDL, at Utah State University received a contract to build two space-based radios for NASA named Iris radios. More specifically, it will build radios for NASA’s Solar Cruiser mission. 

According to The Planetary Society, Solar Cruiser is a NASA mission launching in 2025. This mission’s purpose is to test a large solar sail in an artificial orbit between the Earth and Sun. The solar sail will expand past the length of more than six tennis courts. The artificial orbit of the Solar Cruiser will provide advance warning of solar storms that damage satellites. Solar storms also disrupt power grids on Earth. 

How does SDL play a role in the Solar Cruiser Mission?

Operating in deep space is very difficult due to chilling temperatures that can drop to 455 degrees Fahrenheit, according to SDL. Therefore, spacecraft systems, such as radios, need to be able to withstand such severe conditions. The space-based radios designed by SDL are built to perform in extreme space environments. 

“Iris will incorporate an environmentally robust architecture, including radiation-tolerant parts, and advanced thermal management needed for navigation tracking and other operations,” said SDL’s Solar Cruiser Iris Radio Program Manager Tim Neilsen. 

How this new technology will help future missions

SDL said that the solar sail technologies used in this mission will help future missions with science questions about the sun and its interaction with the Earth. Additionally, through this mission, NASA will improve space-weather monitoring, prediction, and science. 

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Utah State University helps NASA with space exploration