The Intelligent Payload Experiment (IPEX) is a 1U CubeSat developed by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and JPL. IPEX will validate autonomous science and product delivery technologies supporting TRL advancement of the Intelligent Payload Module (IPM) targeted for the proposed HyspIRI Earth Science Decadal Survey Mission providing a twenty-times reduction in data volume for low-latency urgent product generation. As HyspIRI would carry two flight instruments, a VSWIR hyperspectral imaging spectrometer and a thermal infrared imager that would perform global mapping producing approximately 5TB of data per day, the IPEX mission will demonstrate the support infrastructure needed to produce low-latency near real-time direct broadcast products in advance of the larger science products where the current delivery requirement is two weeks.
This technology validation mission, sponsored by NASA's Earth Science Technology Office, will advance the technology required for the future spaceborne implementation of the IPM required for near real-time low-latency autonomous product generation relevant to climate, ecosystems, fire, geological resource, and coastal ocean science, as well as future Earth observing missions, supporting the Earth Science Decadal Survey.
HyspIRI spacecraft concept
The HyspIRI mission concept is considering using Direct Broadcast technology to rapidly deliver large data volumes to application users on the ground. The Intelligent Payload Module (IPM) proposed for HyspIRI is an onboard processing system intended to intelligently decide which data to downlink when, in order to maximize the utility of the DB system.
Google Earth display of proposed HyspIRI instrument ground swaths
The HypsIRI IPM concept involves both ground and flight automation. On the ground, users will use Google Earth to specify geographical and seasonal areas of interest. These requests will be automatically combined with predicted overflights to develop a schedule for onboard product generation and downlink. Additionally onboard the spacecraft, the instrument data will be analyzed to search for specific event or feature signatures such as a forest fire, volcanic eruption, or algal bloom. These detected signatures can generate alerts or products that will be merged on a priority basis to drive spacecraft operations.
Sample products expected from IPEX/IPM
IPEX is intended to demonstrate automated ground and flight operations of onboard autonomous processing of instrument data to validate the IPM capabilities and approach.
The visible to short wave infrared (VSWIR) imaging spectrometer, multispectral mid and thermal infrared imager (TIR), and intelligent payload module (IPM) are in development by NASA's Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO), to support Decadal Survey ecosystem science for the proposed Hyperspectral Infrared Imager, or HyspIRI, mission. HyspIRI mission objectives include studying the world's ecosystems and providing critical information on natural disasters such as volcanoes, wildfires and drought.
The IPEX CubeSat experiment will help enable development of the future spaceborne HyspIRI mission concept by raising the technology readiness level of the IPM subsystem through spaceborne validation of not only the on-board autonomous processing capabilities, but the ground-based mission planning and scheduling segment as well.
Image from Balloon Flight Test at 100,000 Feet
IPEX will validate a wide range of onboard instrument processing algorithms. The vast majority are variations of pixel mathematics, e.g. normalized difference ratios, band ratios, and similar products. For example, many flooding (surface water extent) classifications are based on band ratios. Snow and ice products also use simple band processing formulae. Thermal anomaly detection algorithms such as for volcano and active fire mapping also involve computationally efficient slope analysis of spectral signals. Finally, a wide range of vegetation indicators also involve difference ratios or similar computations.
IPEX will also fly more computationally complex image processing technologies including Support Vector Machine Learning Techniques, spectral unmixing techniques, and TextureCam Random Decision forest classification technique
IPEX Autonomous Operations Tracking
Where is IPEX? IPEX can be tracked via Two-Line Estimate (TLE) data as viewed in Eyes on the Solar System or via our telemetry page. Eyes on the Solar System utilizes the latest TLEs from JSpOC to place the CubeSat in the most accurate estimated position (note that orientation is not accurately represented).
IPEX as viewed on the Eyes on the Solar System.
ELaNa-2 IPEX Launch: December 5, 2013.
ULA Atlas V NROL-39 and GEMS Launch: December 5, 2013.