3D render of IT-SPINS 3U CubeSat

Mission Overview

The Ionospheric-Thermospheric Scanning Photometer for Ion-Neutral Studies (IT-SPINS) mission proposes to provide the first two-dimensional (2D) tomographic imaging from a 3U research CubeSat, addressing the basic nature of the nocturnal ionosphere. This 6-month mission aims to strengthen our fundamental understanding for development of ion gradient structures in the topside of the Earth’s ionosphere and secondarily within regional phenomena such as equatorial plasma bubbles (EPBs) or polar patches. This mission could substantially improve our understanding of space weather, making future space operations safer and more efficient.

Click here to view a video about how the IT-SPINS satellite was engineered.


Deployed June 29, 2021 22:50:00 UTC

Transmissions started June 29, 2021 23:50:00 UTC

Spacecraft Overview

IT-SPINS is a 3U CubeSat, most noteably featuring a custom attitude control system and a CubeSat Tiny Ionospheric Photometer (CTIP) instrument to detect radiation emmisions in the ionosphere. These two systems will work in conjuction to precisely orient the spacecraft and take scientific samples.

Exploded view of IT-SPINS Spacecraft

Annotated exploded view of IT-SPINS spacecraft (left) and fully integrated IT-SPINS spacecraft (right).


IT-SPINS has been deployed into orbit and communication has been established. Researchers at SSEL are currently performing post-deployment operations and commissioning to assess the health of the satellite's systems and the capability of its attitude control device. Once its status has been verified, the essence of the IT-SPINS mission will begin. Scientific trials will commence to image the noctural ionosphere with the CTIP instrument and the resulting data will be downlinked to scientists for interpretation.


A video of IT-SPINS being lauched into orbit from Northrup Grumman's NG-15 spacecraft. Video footage courtesy of Northrup Grumman.

Additional Information