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. COPPER was 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 was never heard from on-orbit.

Dear Amateur radio enthusiasts, COPPER is one of these three objects:
            39395 (2013-064R); 39402 (2013-064Y); or 39405 (2013-064AB).
If you happen to listen in on 437.290 MHz during a pass from one of those objects and, by some miracle, you hear AX.25 UNPROTO packets, please contact us!

COPPER's Mission

COPPER was the first spacecraft developed by the students at Saint Louis University. As such, our primary objective was to take a spacecraft through the design, testing, launch and operations phase. (While 3 out of 4 isn't bad, we can't call it a success...) We were also interested in testing out the usefulness of the Tau microbolometer array for use in our Rascal proximity-operations mission.


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

  • 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 speeds approaching 30 frames per second.
  • The Commodore payload, develped by Vanderbilt University as a pathfinder for the Argus mission.

Other Links

  • IARU Information
  • Beacon and Tracking Information