SET announces development of ARGOS space weather platform

SET announces development of ARGOS space weather platform

BOULDER, COLORADO. Dr. Justin Bailey, the Director of the Space Systems Division at Space Environment Technologies (SET), announced on April 21, 2023 the development of its Aeronautical Regional Geospatial Observer System (ARGOS) at the annual Space Weather Workshop (SWW) 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. ARGOS is a lightweight, low-cost, high altitude, long endurance uncrewed aerial vehicle (HALE UAV) designed to fly autonomously for up to a year at 20 km (65,000 ft.). Its initial area of operations will be at mid- to equatorial-latitudes.

As a flying wing optimized to fly in the stratosphere, it uses solar power with batteries for powered flight with four large propellers. ARGOS has a unique design as a large flying wing with no fuselage or tail and will ascend from or descend to the surface assisted by vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) technology.

SET’s ARGOS Laboratory in Southern California’s aerospace innovation enclave hosts the development of the vehicle, now in version 2 production and testing. With experienced aerospace management and labor for mechanical, avionics, aeronautical, and piloting capabilities, the ARGOS team has developed and is testing ARGOS v2 for flight stability.

ARGOS will open a new market for lightweight payloads (5 kg class) by dramatically reducing the cost for access to the stratosphere. A primary use for ARGOS is to obtain continuous 24/7/365 space weather measurements. These include the Automated Radiation Measurements for Aerospace Safety (ARMAS) radiation measurements above air traffic corridors. High priority regions of interest for flights of the ARGOS fleet will be above the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and continental US (CONUS) regions at 20 km (yellow areas). This is a region in which SET has made 21 simultaneous measurements with international space station (ISS) (red dots) and aircraft (green dots) in the second half of 2022 through the ARMAS Dual Monitor program.

In measuring the atmospheric radiation at these levels, ARGOS will also be able to measure the rare solar energetic particles (SEPs) from large flares and will additionally help the science community understand why there is an excess of high latitude atmospheric radiation beyond that produced by galactic cosmic rays (GCRs).

In future activities, ARGOS will also provide regional i) very high frequency (VHF) soundings of the bottom of the D-region ionosphere, ii) monitoring of nitric oxide in the E-F1-ionosphere regions and lower thermosphere (100-200 km) relevant to upper atmosphere collapse and effects on satellite drag after major geomagnetic storms, as well as iii) dual frequency GNSS receiver-derived total electron content (TEC) without the tropospheric water signal contamination, i.e., only the ionosphere component. SET has the goal of hosting a fleet of 20 ARGOS UAVs that are operating by late-2024.