CubeRRT approved for launch

Posted: February 23, 2016

A rendering of the Ohio State CubeRRT satellite in action.
NASA announced this week an Ohio State University-led satellite project is among those approved for space launch.

Ohio State Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Chair and Professor, Joel Johnson, leads the development of NASA’s CubeSat Radiometer Radio Frequency Interference Technology Validation (CubeRRT) project.

The program received $5.6 million from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in 2015.

A previous story on the project and CubeRRT's technologies is outlined in the article, “Navigating the Noise.”

Essentially, as humans expand their technological presence across the globe, the growth of manmade radio transmissions is making it increasingly difficult to detect Earth's microwave radiation used for studying atmospheric water vapor or soil moisture from space. This has required new advancements in radio frequency interference (RFI) technology to help separate the manmade signals from the natural.

Johnson and his team at Ohio State specialize in such technology. Ohio State is the only national university leading one of the four selected projects for NASA’s In-Space Validation of Earth Science Technologies, or InVEST, and is working in partnership with investigators from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

NASA explained CubeRRT will help “observe, detect, and mitigate RFI” to better allow microwave radiometers to measure the Earth’s properties for climate science.

Joel Johnson
Johnson said he expects the CubeRRT launch could happen in 2018.

“If successful, CubeRRT technologies will address gaps in existing RFI mitigation technologies to increase the amount of high quality radiometer data collected by future Earth observing missions,” NASA explained.

The Ohio State program is part of a larger NASA CubeSat initiative. CubeSats are satellites small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, or as big as a large shoebox, designed to test new technologies in space. NASA is exploring new launch options through the commercial small spacecraft industry in order to fast track many of these technologies.

To take advantage of the space-bound opportunities these small satellites offer, the Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO), part of NASA’s Earth Science Division, selected four new projects to be developed, built, and launched into low-Earth orbit to test emerging technologies that could enable new and improved understandings of the planet.

Small satellites, including CubeSats, are playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research and educational investigations at NASA. They provide a low-cost platform for NASA missions, including planetary space exploration, Earth observations, fundamental Earth and space science, and developing precursor science instruments like cutting-edge laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement capabilities.

“These quick-turnaround projects, once validated, have the potential to improve and supplement Earth science observations available to researchers worldwide covering topics from weather to climate, and soil moisture to land use,” NASA reports.

“Most Earth science phenomena measurements can be improved by sustained observations with increased spatial and temporal resolution. Validating these new compact instrument subsystems today will enable the relevant constellation measurements of the future,” Charles Norton said, an ESTO program associate with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech.

Other new InVEST CubeSat selections for launch include one from Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. and two from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The four newly-selected CubeSats, each measuring 10 by 20 by 30 centimeters, received funding through a recent solicitation held by InVEST. The total funding for these four projects over their first year of development is approximately $9 million dollars. Each satellite is being built and launched in approximately two to three years and should be operational in space for anywhere from three to 12 months.

The InVEST program, managed by ESTO, focuses on the challenges of space-based Earth observations and demonstrates and provides technologies from instruments and components to information systems that can be used on a variety of platforms and can be reliably applied to a broad range of Earth science measurement and mission needs.

Learn more about the project in this article from NASA:

To learn more about ESTO and its programs, including InVEST, visit

To learn more about Ohio State Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, visit