Presentation #128.04 in the session Drivers and Dynamics of the Coupled Ionosphere-thermosphere-mesosphere-atmosphere System — Poster Session.
Infrared radiative cooling by nitric oxide (NO) is a primary component of the energy budget of Earth’s thermosphere. The emission from NO at 5.3 mm is extremely variable due to its sensitivity to the neutral kinetic temperature, atomic oxygen variations, and the abundance of NO itself. During periods of geomagnetic activity, infrared radiative cooling has been shown to act as a ‘natural thermostat’ for the thermosphere, increasing substantially and thereby rapidly damping out the storm energy in a matter of a couple of days. Geomagnetic activity heats the thermosphere and causes increases in density at fixed altitudes. These increases are difficult to forecast accurately but are important for precise tracking of satellite positions in low earth orbit. One factor missing from many forecast models is an accurate way to account for the influence of the heating, expansion, and cooling processes on the evolution of density during geomagnetic storms. An assessment of failed density forecasts shows a strong association of enhanced NO infrared emission as measured by the SABER instrument on the NASA TIMED spacecraft during the forecast period. In this talk we present the design of NICEcube, the Nitric oxide Infrared Cooling Emissions cubesat, a 12U cubesat that will replicate the SABER NO measurement and provide near real time downlink of the NO cooling data for input to forecasts of thermospheric density. The NICEcube design has been supported by the NASA Heliophysics Flight Opportunity Studies program.