Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Ryan Davidson


Variations of gas and plasma density and composition in Earth’s thermosphere and ionosphere are key indicators of interactions between different layers of Earth’s atmosphere. The nature of interactions between neutral and ion species in the upper atmosphere is an active area of study in Heliophysics and there is much to learn about the dynamic relationship between the ionosphere and neutral thermosphere. Mass Spectrometers are among an array of instruments used to explore Earth’s upper atmosphere and other space environments. In the past, data from mass spectrometers flown in low earth orbit has been used to improve atmospheric models and to study the dynamics of the ionosphere and thermosphere. Historically, these instruments are substantial in size and deployed on larger satellite platforms. Data from these larger instruments generally provide information from a specific point in time at a single location. Studies of atmospheric density and composition with multiple locations for each time point could be performed by CubeSat swarms if proper instrumentation were available to fit CubeSat payload restrictions. The proposed miniaturized time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometer (MS) will have a mass resolution and range sufficient for measuring the composition of Earth’s thermosphere and ionosphere while operating within the power and space constraints of a CubeSat. The capabilities of this instrument could dramatically reduce the cost of future missions while simultaneously enhancing the science return. The design employs miniaturization of TOF-MS technology, including resolution refinement techniques used for larger instruments and standard concepts for TOF-MS components such as acceleration grids, a Bradbury-Nielsen wire gate, a gridless ion mirror, and microchannel plate detector.