Piggyback ride

November 1, 2012
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Fall 2012

Jerry Kim with CINEMA nanosatelliteJerry Kim (B.S.’11 ME) holds the CINEMA nanosatellite. (Photo by Robert Sanders/UC Berkeley)What is the size of a shoebox, weighs eight pounds and flies? That would be CINEMA (CubeSat for Ions, Neutrals, Electrons and MAgnetic fields), one of 11 miniaturized satellites that was launched with an Atlas V rocket into Earth’s orbit this past September. Built in three years by an international team of 45 students—including 25 from Berkeley’s engineering and physics programs—CINEMA is a relatively inexpensive nanosatellite made to piggyback aboard other NASA missions. CINEMA was constructed from a group of three modular CubeSats, each measuring a standard 10x10x10 centimeters and weighing just over one kilogram. Designed to spend a year in orbit, CINEMA will gather images of the ring current, an electrical current that encircles the Earth and is responsible for geomagnetic storms.