The Iris CubeSat mission: Science payload description for a pathfinder geological space weathering investigation

S. A. Connell, D. M. Applin, N. N. Turenne, E. A. Cloutis, C. Kiddell, S. Sidhu, P. Mann, P. Ferguson, M. Driedger, J. Campos, A. Barari, M. May, V. Reddy, S. A. Mertzman, D. Trang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Iris mission is a student-led 3-U CubeSat comprised of a science payload of 20 geological samples placed in low-Earth orbit (LEO) to study the effects of space weathering (i.e., those aspects that can be investigated in LEO). This experiment is the first of its kind to take place in the vacuum of space. The science objective of the mission is to investigate how space weathering processes affect the surfaces of airless planetary bodies by monitoring the spectral reflectance properties of geological samples over time. Two three-color cameras acquire spectral reflectance data within the visible spectrum to measure any spectral and/or textural changes exhibited throughout the ∼1-year orbital mission. This mission will provide valuable data to help understand how the space environment may affect the surfaces of the Moon, Mercury, and main-belt and near-Earth asteroids. The acquired data will help constrain meteorite-asteroid links and provide insight into the spectroscopic analysis of samples returned from the Moon, and near-Earth asteroids Itokawa, Bennu, and Ryugu. The results of this mission will also complement the results of laboratory simulations of space weathering. All samples selected for flight on the CubeSat have undergone several tests to ensure suitability for launch and operations. This paper describes the payload subsystem, sample selection and preparation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-394
Number of pages14
JournalActa Astronautica
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Analogs
  • Asteroids
  • CubeSat
  • Lunar
  • Meteorites
  • Mineralogy
  • Space weathering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


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