The Close Orbiting Propellant Plume and Elemental Recognition (COPPER) mission is to perform a first flight of a commercially-available, compact microbolometer array. [Translation: it’s a tiny infrared camera developed by FLIR Systems.] We will evaluate the suitability of using this instrument for Earth observation and space situational awareness. COPPER is a 1U CubeSat (10 cm cube with a mass around 1 kg) designed to operate in Low Earth Orbit.

COPPER was SLU’s entry into the University Nanosat-6 Competition, which ran from 2009-2011. In February 2011, COPPER was selected by NASA for a sponsored launch under its Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) Program. At present, COPPER has been manifested on the ORS-3 launch, a Minotaur-1 rocket flight out of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Wallops Island, VA. COPPER was launched on 19 November 2013, but has not responded on-orbit. (See News for updates.)



COPPER consists of the SCARAB bus and two plug-in payloads:

  1. 1.The FLIR Tau 320 Microbolometer Array, with a custom-built interface board (giving us greater control over the imager and allowing us to store 14-bit images at 30 frames per second).

  2. 2.A pathfinder payload provided by Vanderbilt University, in preparation for the Argus mission. The Commodore payload will demonstrate basic interfaces and functionality of their radiation-effects monitoring payload controller.

Other Links

  1. Beacon & Tracking Information

  2. Launch information (from Spaceflight Now)

  3. NASA’s Launch webcast (opening 5:30pm CST on the day of launch)