SLU-02: Argus

Argus is a collaborative project between SSRL and the Institute for Defense and Space Electronics (ISDE) at Vanderbilt University. Argus’ mission is to improve the ability to model the effects of space radiation on modern electronics. We will do this by comparing the rates of on-orbit radiation events against the predictive models developed by ISDE. Argus is a 2U CubeSat (10x10x20 cm) with a mass of 3.0 kg designed to operate in Low Earth Orbit.

Argus is SLU’s entry into the University Nanosat-7 Competition, which began in January 2011 and culminated in a Flight Competition Review in January 2013. In February 2012, Argus was selected by NASA for a sponsored launch under its Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) Program. Argus was launched on 3 November 2015 as part of the ORS-4 Mission on the inaugural flight of the Super-Strypi rocket out of Hawaii. Unfortunately, the launch failed early in the flight, and Argus did not reach orbit.

(11/03/2015): There has been a launch failure. More details as we learn them.

Previous Updates (may be out of date):

(11/02/2015): ORS-4 is GO for launch on 3 November 2015. Same time (3pm HST / 7pm CST).

(10/29/2015): ORS-4 is on hold; the launch is NOT on 29 October. We will post updates as we receive them!

(10/20/2015) ORS-4 is slated to launch on 29 October 2015. The launch window opens at 3pm Hawaii Standard Time (8pm Central Daylight Time, or 01:00 UTC on 30 October).

Argus-team-managed Information:

Outside sources of information:


We are looking for new spacecraft operators; no experience required. Contact Dr. Swartwout for more information.

Argus Science

The motivation for Argus is straightforward: the models used today to determine how electronic devices will operate when exposed to space radiation were created in the 1970s and ‘80s, and are tailored to the kinds of electronics available in the 1970s and ‘80s using the computational resources in the 1970s and ‘80s. Modern electronics are smaller, faster and more complex than their predecessors. The existing models to define their reliability in space simply do not apply.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University and ISDE have developed new predictive models, but it is important to calibrate them. Unfortunately, it is not sufficient to simply calibrate the models only using radiation test chambers on the ground. Modern electronics have many operating modes and are susceptible to a wide range of particles and energies; testing even one simple device across all parameters would require years of beam time! Beam time is a necessary element of calibration, but it is not sufficient.

With the advent of the CubeSat standard and the universal adoption of the P-POD carrier among U.S. and international launch vehicles, spaceflight has become a cost-effective complement to ground testing.

About Argus

Argus consists of a SLU-built bus and the Independence payload developed by Vanderbilt University. After separation from the launch vehicle, Argus will passively detumble, unstow its downlink antenna, and wait in safe mode until contacted by the ground. Once checked out, Argus will enter into nominal operations:

  • The Independence payload will actively monitor its own experiments via the Vanderbilt University Controller (VUC).
  • When a radiation-induced event occurs, the VUC will log the event.
  • Meanwhile, the bus will broadcast regular beacons of vehicle state of health and selected science snapshots.
  • Ground operators at SLU and VU will contact Argus to download the complete science & engineering history.
  • Researchers at ISDE will compare the predicted event rates against the flight data to improve their models.

Other Links

  • Beacon/tracking information